I love photographing people when traveling. When I visit a country for its culture, I love wandering around on the streets, capturing the daily interactions of people, the day-to-day activities. It’s the people that can make the place feel alive, when you are in the cities, towns, village. On this day in Cuba I was wandering around a farmers’ market, and came upon what had to be the country’s largest squash for sale. It was the biggest I had even seen there. He was so proud to show it off, too! I noted that he had already cut it in half – no doubt because even the largest of families in Cuba would not be able to prepare or eat a whole one at one time. He assured me it was organically farmed, and I believe him – because pesticides and fertilizers are expensive and hard to come by unless you are farming for the government. Good thing, in this case.
My Spanish didn’t account for agricultural terms, but I did know the word calabasa meant squash, and I managed to have enough conversation that he was relaxed and happy to be photographed. Travel photography is about capturing a sense of place, both in the landscape and the people that live in that place. Not everyone likes to include people in their landscapes, and I agree – the natural landscape can stand on its own for its stunning beauty. But a place that is inhabited with so many people just feels empty if you capture the street without anyone there – unless you are trying to express the emptiness, a feeling of loneliness, etc. Yet for me, Cuba represents a vibrant culture, and it’s a great place for street and cultural photography. The people living there are so friendly, and genuine, and often visually unique, with their complex ethnic backgrounds. (African, Russian, and Chinese mixed in with the traditional Cuban genes). Cuba is about the people as much as it’s about the decaying buildings, cars, even though I love to photograph those, too! This just makes the place even more visually rich! I know that not everyone feels comfortable photographing people, even if interested, so I teach this on my cultural photography tours, helping people to become comfortable interacting with locals, making portraits, and working the ‘street scene’.
I’ll be returning to eastern Cuba, the oriente as it’s often referred to, in December 2018, co-leading a cultural, people-to-people photo tour that combines an experience of the eastern part of the island with the streets and environment around Havana. We’ll explore the diverse landscape and cities/towns and interact with and photograph the people of both sides of this intriguing island. The tour is co-lead with pro photographer Jed Manwaring, who has a great eye for the street and the unexpected photograph. We hope you’ll join us for some tropical fun and adventure next December! See details and more photos here and then go to Strabo Tours’ page to sign up.
Brenda Tharp is an award-winning photographer, photo tour leader, workshop instructor, inspirational speaker, fine art photographer, and writer. California photographer, landscape photographer, nature photographer, travel photographer, people photographer, worldwide photographer, western, usa, cuba, morocco, ireland, italy, namibia, myanmar, spain, bhutan, alaska, photo workshops, photo seminars, photo tours, photography workshops, photography tours, keynote speaker, author, photography books, photo books, inspirational.