Tag Archives: havana

Q&A With Robert McCabe, Pt. 3: Favorite Photographs

Robert McCabe is a celebrated photographer whose most recent exhibition took place in Corfu, Greece. This week he selected some of his favorite shots from his two Abbeville Press books, The Ramble in Central Park and Weekend in Havana.

Q. What are some of your favorite shots from The Ramble in Central Park?

A: P 31 Reflections in the Lake. I got inspired by the reflections in the lake several times and there are a couple of others included in the book. The success of these reflection photos depends on what was in the foreground, what was reflected, and how the light fell on all the components. One could do whole book of them!
P 66 The Oven. I like the sense of tranquility and the distance from the bustle of the city. The only link is the Times.
P 81. Fall Wedding. Luck plays an important role in photography. This was one of those lucky shots where all the players are visible and doing what they are supposed to be doing. If they had been my models and I had taken 1000 shots I doubt I would have gotten one as good.
P 109 Winter near Azalea Pond. This spot is exceptionally photogenic. And I picked the winter scene just because it’s rarer. There are other shots in the book of this spot in the fall.
P 118 A tranquil spot on the banks of the Gill. When I see this I think to myself, no one will believe this exists in New York.

Q. How about from Weekend in Havana?

A: P 87 The Man. The Bronze. The communist bronze ideal juxtaposed against the lanky human reality. But there are structural similarities which make the two figures seem related.
P 103 School pals. The sense of two children in rapport is strong in this–something difficult to capture in images. I have a series of the two of them together.
P 114 Woman and her dog. The color palette I like, as well as the sense of the emotional attachment between the woman and her dog.
P 119 The Three Graces. A lucky shot, with everyone in exactly the right position.
P 125 Toy vendor. This summarizes some of the heartbreak of Havana–no toys for children except these handmade “toys,” and the sadness of the maker.
P 137 Untitled. The local and foreign visitor. The positions and expressions speak 10,000 words.

Q. Tell us about your most recent work, including your recent exhibition in Corfu?

A. I am currently working on two books relating to Greece. This year I had the opportunity to photograph in a number of Greek islands that have beautiful topography, including Ithaca and Patmos.

I have an exhibition in progress now on the island of Corfu. It is titled “China Greece–Ancient Peoples, Changing Worlds.” It is in the Old Palace in Corfu, which is now the Museum of Asian Art. It consists of 40 color photographs of Greece in the 1950s and ’60s and 45 color photos of China in 2006. There are in addition 25 black and white photos of Greece in the 1950s. The venue is the most beautiful in Greece, and the island certainly one of the most beautiful and pleasant. So I hope you will try to visit before the May 12 closing date.

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Images by Robert McCabe. All rights reserved. Click here to purchase a copy of The Ramble in Central Park, published by Abbeville Press.

Images by Robert McCabe. All rights reserved. Click here to purchase a copy of Weekend in Havana, published by Abbeville Press.

Q&A With Robert McCabe, Pt. 2: Weekend in Havana

For Part 2 of our Q&A with noted photographer Robert McCabe, we asked about the experiences surrounding his first book with Abbeville Press, Weekend in Havana: An American Photographer in the Forbidden City. Published in 2007 in a trilingual edition featuring English, Spanish, and Greek, the book is a moving photographic celebration of Havana and its people. McCabe shared his recollections of the project’s origins and reflected on the slow change that has come to Cuba in recent years.

Q. How were you able to gain entry to the country to conduct your photographic campaign, and what was your experience like as a photographer there?

A. I was unexpectedly in Havana on a friend’s boat. We hadn’t planned to go but when we learned that we could visit Cuba as Americans as long as we didn’t spend any money the decision was easy. I didn’t even have a camera with me so I borrowed our daughter’s Nikon with its unusual Macro lens which she uses for archaeological photography. But it was perfect for street photography. What attracted me was the fact there were few tourists and we were getting a glimpse of the real Havana under Fidel Castro’s brand of communism. People were earning $20 to $30 a month. (They still are.) Many basics were rationed. While no one stopped me from taking photos, a local photographer was sentenced to 26 years in jail for sending unflattering photos out of Cuba. Most people welcomed my taking photos of them. The notable exception was a man covered in oil working under the hood of his car. I couldn’t blame him.

The owner of the boat I was on told the port authorities that we could only visit Havana if they would allow us to dock in Old Havana. If we had gone to the Marina we would have had to spend money on transportation into Havana. So they agreed and we ate and slept on the boat, and simply walked around the city. We had a berth on a renovated pier right at the edge of the old city.

Q. How have the politics and social climate of the country changed in recent decades?

A. Fidel has retired, but the regime is still harsh with dissidents. Entrepreneurs have many more opportunities now and can earn decent money if they can find a position in the tourist industry.

Things have opened up now and many U.S. groups go to Cuba on study tours. There are many many tourists from Europe and Canada.

Q. I was struck by the graffito in one of your photographs that translates as “Here, we don’t want masters.” How would you interpret this?

A. I am afraid the “Here, we don’t want masters” was a pure propaganda slogan put up by the government.

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Images by Robert McCabe. All rights reserved. Click here to purchase a copy of Weekend in Havana, published by Abbeville Press.