There are few things I love more than travel. I have wanted to go to Cuba since I was a Sophomore in college. My thesis advisor at Duke, Alex Harris, did a series of photographs in Cuba for his book The Idea of Cuba and I was obsessed ever since. I actually learned to use Photoshop on an image of his featuring the back of an old taxi cab. Who knew I would wind up in this lovely country nearly a decade later.
I have been getting a lot of questions about my Cuba travel so I thought I would share my film images alongside my experience traveling Havana.
My gal pal from high school Amanda Bjorn is a fabulous photographer and hosts trips to Cuba! I have to say, I am NOT one for organized travel or guided trips/tours so I was slightly wary at first but this blew away my expectations. I didn’t feel restricted one bit and was able/encouraged to create my own editorial shoot.
Going to Cuba, I was extremely nervous about not being allowed in or out of the country but it was overwhelmingly easy. I bought travel insurance for the first time ever and flew on SouthWest (although JetBlue also has affordable tickets to Cuba). You can buy a Visa ahead of time or at the airport. I went on a People to People Visa for Support of the Cuban People but there are 12 categories of Visa you can travel on. Education, Public Performances and Humanitarian projects are categories my friends have traveled under before. I bought mine ahead of time through the company SouthWest suggests, Cuba Travel Services. I was actually surprised at how easy it was to get in and out. I needed to provide an address but beyond that, no one asked to see an itinerary. On the way back in, customs asked only if I bought cigars, I said ‘yes’, they asked ‘how many’, I said ’20’ and was then stamped and on my way.
While in Cuba, it is hard to get around without knowing Spanish. It is not as touristy as Europe (somewhat obviously) so I would actually suggest going with a guide or having a pocket translator. We stayed in this adorable home in Old Havana. You need to do your research when it comes to where you stay. Some hotels support the Cuban Government which is a No-No for American travelers. We also visited 2 Cuban Photographers’ studios and their work blew me away. Leysis Quesada does incredible work with ballerinas and Ira Kononenko does some lovely experimental darkroom work that inspires. We also were able to take in a local ballet, we rode in a pink convertible on the Malecon at sunset, visited two local art galleries and went clubbing. The food wasn’t my fave but the company definitely was.
In life, some trips you take are just extremely formative to your person. During this particular stretch of days, I met and traveled with 6 incredible women. We danced and explored while having deep honest conversations about love, passion and what it means to be an artist. Each woman was unique and wonderful and they all left me feeling an inspiration that I have never felt. They encouraged me to a new level of authenticity that I can only hope to carry with me in 2018 and always. Below are some of my favorite personal photos from the trip. They’re a mix of 35mm film, digital and 120mm film.
Below is my 120mm film developed by The Find Lab