Tag Archives: culture

Let’s not take things for granted!



For this blog post, I am posting snippets from an email one of our participants on our January Cuba Tour sent to me. She assembled several PDF slideshows she shared with us all, each one prefaced with comments. This was from her Trinidad email:

“Trinidad was the most fun part of the trip for me.  I had spent months brushing up on my Spanish, and this was my chance to use it.  Sometimes I got so involved in my conversations, I forgot to take pictures…

…I gave another woman a pen.  She started crying and hugged me.  She told me (in Spanish) everyone else gives her shampoo and soap, but no one had ever given her a pen.  She was so happy.  So I gave her a few more pens.  We take so much for granted in the U.S.  I could walk into a TD Bank tomorrow and grab a handful of pens for free.” 

What a thought-provoking email, thank-you, Kathy!

In the 6 trips I’ve made to Cuba, I too have experienced how precious the simplest things – sewing needles, thread, pens, fishhooks, combs – can be. I photograph not only the artsy (from a photographer’s perspective) photos, but the real life stories that are played out everywhere I go. Like this line-up of water jugs of all types: a pipe had a leak, and someone connected a hose to the break. Residents in the area lined up their jugs to gather extra free water, leaving this one man to move the hose to each jug as one filled. And why? Because running water is not always available inside homes and at regular times, it seems, the city of Trinidad turns the water off completely.

Here at home, we turn on the tap without any thought about how precious that water is. It’s just one example, but think about all the things we take for granted! The next time you ‘borrow’ a pen from the bank, or turn on your shower, or reach for your favorite snack, pause for a moment and appreciate all that you have.

Thanks for visiting!





(Note: In northern California, we are in such a drought condition that we are thinking about every precious drop of water at the moment!)

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Even the Pigs Pose in Cuba


It’s true. Everyone seems to want to be in the photographs we make when we’re in Cuba. Even the pigs. Perhaps they are just as curious about us as we are of them. Just like many of the people. And how long will that last? No one knows, for sure. But if we, as photographers, behave, and photograph everyone and everything with respect, it will last longer than if we just point and shoot and move on. If we can have a dialogue with the people, the true people-to-people exchange that Obama set in motion a while ago, it will help. You might have to do it through your guide/interpreter, if you don’t speak Spanish. But don’t let that deter you.

This farm is a Unesco heritage farm site. We visited on my first trip to Cuba, and subsequent trips thereafter. I have photographed Juana Gamacho, Francisco, their dogs, and now their pig! They welcome us each time, and we come bearing useful gifts – things like sewing kits, pens, batteries, first aid supplies, etc. Maybe that’s why they keep welcoming us, but it’s a win-win. They are truly willing to be photographed and they offer us coffee every time we come.

No matter where you travel, the experience is often made better by the connection you create when you are photographing the people or their homes/farms. We take a genuine interest in how they live; we ask what things are used for; we tell them (and mean it) how special their country is, and how glad we are to be there. We ask them how their crops are doing or did last season. I’m convinced all of that matters, I’ve seen it in the reactions we get on the faces of the people we photograph. Even the pigs smile.

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Hope for Cuba’s Future!





Exciting news from President Obama this morning. I especially liked his statement that ” we do business with China… and we have relations with Vietnam… so why not Cuba, too?” I agree that engagement, exchange of ideas, and bringing to the forefront ways we can help Cubans is a good direction to take. How will it change things? Will McDonald’s start popping up in Havana or Trinidad? yikes, I hope not. And besides, that sort of business is probably not high on the list with the current admin in Cuba. But hopefully it can help Cubans in their private enterprises, in healthcare, education, etc. I think it will be an overall good thing for our Cuban friends. We have always been warmly greeted and our interactions with the people have been wonderful, and I’d love to see them prosper in all ways. It’s time that America has a positive presence.

It will be very interesting to see how things unfold in the coming year(s) as travel opens up to the country, too. It’s about time. I’m glad we’re going back in October.





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The Power of Juxtaposition


We need it, we look for it, and we’re delighted when we get it! Travel and documentary photographers are always seeking the moment when things come together – be it light, gesture, or juxtaposition. As I was walking in Camagüey, Cuba last February, I spotted this interesting statue by a Cuban artist, but what really caught my eye was the woman walking up to the phone in the background. I waited for some gesture from her to bring out the moment, but it was the juxtaposition that really grabbed me. Did the artist place the sculpture in this square with that phone booth in mind? I may never know, but it was a perfect opportunity for me to make this picture.

I love photographing in Cuba. There’s a raw beauty to the place, with it’s faded elegance and decay, the rugged landscape holds it’s own natural beauty, and the people are resilient, Cuban-proud and beautiful. I’ll be running another people-to-people photography tour October 24-November 2, 2015, in partnership with Strabo Tours.  If you haven’t been, it really is time. Cuba is changing, slowly but surely. And who knows what tomorrow will bring?

Thanks for visiting!


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