What is your project about?
My project is about Cubans’ daily living conditions in Havana.
Why did you choose the subject?
Cuba has been in focus these last few months with president Obama’s historic visit and the Rolling Stones concert in Havana. I planned a trip just after those two events, considering it would be an opportunity to work in the streets to illustrate the current daily living conditions of Cubans to see if it will change something.
What inspired you to do it?
For my second trip to Havana in the past six months, I wanted to produce a realistic project with an artistic touch. Then I decided to work in color to get a chance to associate different elements in my image composition. Furthermore it reveals the aim of the streets because Havana is a very colorful city.
As a reminder, I produced two series in a preceding journey, Frederic Saez Photographs The Cuba We Don’t See Often – The Photoblographer and Los Niños en Centro Habana – The Inspired Eye, both in black and white. The purpose of this was to reveal a more dramatic atmosphere.
However, for this project my objective was different, and I would like to be more realistic by adding color.
I tried to cover some aspects of the daily life, but not all off course. I mainly focused my work on illustrating what’s going on in the streets: social life, work, fun…The fresh, repainted walls and renovated streets of Havana as a background used in my frame.
I am aware that this is not exhaustive, but it was my vision in the time frame I had.
How long is the duration of the project…was it a one-time thing or is it ongoing?
I was in Havana for only a few days. I consider this series finished. But the subject remains open. I already know that I will come back again to document other aspects of local life, for example nightlife or other usual or unusual things I could see, experience, document. In fact, Cuba is a fantastic country to visit and I can’t help not to return there.
What obstacles did you face and how did you overcome them?
Time, not enough time. Several weeks, even months should be more adequate to go deeply in the subject.
What are the technical aspects of the project (camera, lens, film, post processing, etc.)?
I shoot with a Leica M9-P with both 35mm and a 28mm Summicron Asph lenses. I used such lenses to shoot closer to my subjects and get a perspective effect that only wide angles offer.
Other than that, I can say I like photographing instinctively. As Leica M cameras don’t have an autofocus, I set my camera in zone focus mode or hyperfocal to take pictures on the fly.
What advice can you give someone who wants to do something similar?
Be curious, go in the popular and non-touristic areas in Havana. You can search for subjects in the backyard and discover different angles of the city. I have been invited to drink coffee in houses so many times during my trips. Cubans are welcoming.
What were the conditions (light, weather, environment)?
For this second trip to Cuba, the weather was cloudy on the first days of my stay. I had only one available sunny window during an afternoon. So I took the whole series in five hours maximum.
Maybe it could be better with more time, but I remain satisfied because I succeeded in telling a coherent story that reflects the realistic street atmosphere in Havana.
What, if any, special equipment or techniques did you use to make this image (camera, lens, lighting gear, post processing)?
About the post processing, I always minimalize this step. All the photos from this series are processed with just a little bit more contrasted tones and desaturated colors. I would like to render the photos this way to keep realistic situations with a small vintage touch.
Tell us about any interesting story you have about a photo and what was happening at the time.
From my point of view the photo of the group practicing Salsa in an apartment is interesting because it is representative of what I love in photography. Passing by in a street in Centro Habana, I heard some music from the first floor.
As I moved closer, I became interested in getting an opportunity to take some interesting photos. After that I saw a musician on the balcony who invited me in the apartment. I spent one hour with them playing Salsa and of course, I took pictures. This one is the most representative of the ambiance. In other words, once again, I met these people thanks to photography. Being close to people is my main interest with street photography. Fixed lenses help me to be very close when shooting.