February 15, 2012

Cuba! Melancholy, Music & Mojo. ~ Robert Sturman Photography

Trinidad, Cuba

For ten years I traveled the world with an old Polaroid camera using a pre-photoshop technique of carving into the images before the chemistry settled. One of the places I focused on was CUBA, making four separate trips (one month each) to the island. Cuba, inarguably the most unique, far from America (yet only 90 miles away) country I have ever visited. My love for Cuba only grows as I begin to understand the sweet complexities of a country that was shut off from the U.S. well over fifty years ago. The people, the cars, the rum, the music, the sea. Cuba broke my heart. Cuba opened my mind. Cuba helped me to see the world.

Please, allow me to take you to CUBA!

This song works well as you scroll further through this post:


 The last time an American car was sent to Cuba was 1959.

Although we love seeing these classics line the streets, any Cuban would trade one in for a newer Ford if they could. Fixing them, finding parts, and the cost of fuel is a tremendous hardship.

The music in Cuba is of the highest quality everywhere you go.

My first night in Havana I was exploring the vibrant streets and I heard the most beautiful music coming from a club called “The Palermo.” I went in and the ladies were all smiling at me. I felt like Antonio Banderas. Then I hung out with the band, made a portrait of the saxophonist, drank some rum, and smoked a cigar. I looked around and noticed that the ladies were all over everyone. Suddenly, it occurred to me that not only was I in a brothel, the brothel I was in had the best live music in the world. 

The Partagas Cigar Factory ~ La Habana

I walked by the Partagas Cigar Factory five times a day for one month, looking for the perfect car to compliment this very La Habana—esque scene. It was a Sunday morning, I had given up and I was on my way to the airport in a taxi, when I realized I was sitting in the car I had been searching for all along. 

Cubans can throw a baseball like no other human being on the planet. Being drafted by a Major League Baseball team is the equivalent of winning the lottery.

At first I laughed. 

It takes time to understand the complexities of Cuban life. For starters, very few Cubans speak any English, they do not have the freedom to leave the island, the U.S. has not permitted trade with them for over 50 years, and the poverty level is heartbreaking. Left behind by a tourist, this shirt is probably the only one he has and no one in Cuba is laughing about it.                                                                                                       


   The iconic image of Che Guevara, the Marxist Revolutionary who led the Cuban Revolution with Fidel Castro, is the most reproduced image in human history.



One of the most isolated countries on the planet, many Cubans sum up their history in two categories — before the revolution and after the revolution. 

Alejandro ~ Old Havana

The Guitarist ~ Trinidad, Cuba


Calle Cuba ~ La Habana 

Cuba is one of the last standing Socialist countries.
My work in Cuba was to celebrate it in all it’s unique and colorful glory.
One of the gems of Cuba to us is that it is untouched by American business. It’s a tear and a smile. While being cut off from the big USA could be refreshing to us, it only ads to the struggle they are in and they long to be connected to the world. Cuban life is not easy. A doctor makes an average $20 U.S. monthly salary. 
While there are not many choices for the life of a Cuban, there is a gift that they have learned to live with — finding joy in the moment. I have never met a warmer culture filled with genuine kindness. My prayer for Cuba is that eventually when the Castro family exits, the lives of the people will significantly improve. 





View More Work from Cuba Here

Keep an Eye on Sturman’s Artistic Journey Here 


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