As a visitor, you’re sure to find that Cuba is a fabulous destination to grab some really interesting snapshots. When you get back, you can show them to your friends and family and get the ooos and awwws you hope for.
Then there’s Byron Motley who has spent ten years shooting a volume entitled Embracing Cuba that reflects his affection for the people and places of the island nation. His professionally executed shots individually, and particularly considered together in his book, deliver a portrait of Cuba that is almost as insightful as your own visit.
The volume is organized in subjects. The buildings of Havana chapter offesr an endless source of attention grabbing images. Motley skips the ordinary to take an insightful, beautiful look at his subjects. His dramatic look at the Bacardi Building, for example, shows its stunning but neglected beauty perfectly. I have shot the building 100 times and so have most Havana visitors. The shot on page 15 outclasses them.
On page 22 and 23, Motley juxtaposes a pre-restoration photo of some of the cty’s striking balconies against a parallel balcony faced in the beautifully restored Plaza Vieja to demonstrate just what the place could look like with a gigantic infusion of money. If only.
The volume of tourist photographs taken of Cuba’s celebrated fleet of vintage American autos is likely only rivaled by shots of the Eiffel Tower, but Motley finds his own way. I particularly like this yellow Buick wagon and its repair. The notes tucked into the dash of Cuban peoples’ taxi tells that story. His take on the musician carrying his bass narratess a great tale in a single shot – music is everywhere and even though a player has access to a bass fiddle, he certainly doesn’t have any way to transport it to his gig.
Some shots, like the musicians on the Malecon wall or even the lady with the cigar on the cover lean toward cliché when viewed individually, but the book taken as a whole works so well it doesn’t matter.
With several pages of indroductory text seeting up the sections – Dogs, Politics, Sports and more – Embracing Cuba certainly gives the country a loving hug. After savouring the collection of 180 photographs Motley has assembled you almost feel like you’re strolling there yourself and understand a great deal about what makes Cuba tick.
BYRON MOTLEY is coauthor of Ruling Over Monarchs, Giants, and Stars: True Tales of Breaking Barriers, Umpiring Baseball Legends, and Wild Adventures in the Negro Leagues. His photographs have been published in the Los Angeles Times, New York Daily News, Vanity Fair, and the Advocate.
Embracing Cuba is published by UNIVERSITY PRESS OF FLORIDA 1- 800.226.3822 · WWW.UPF.COM