The first impression of La Habana is, when you arrive at the airport and seeing the small international airport, in which state the country still is. Taking the Taxi from airport to the city I felt like entering a movie world from the 50’s and 60’s.
For my first trip to Havana I planned actually nothing, no accommodations, no trips planned, not knowing where to go and what to see. I wanted to see the country with eyes of a local and get into their way of life.
The first two days I encountered the area of Vedado, near the Melia Cohiba Hotel and the brutal architectural master piece of the Edificio Giron Building, which is slowly eaten by the salty air and its people living there, manly workers for the Giron Bus Company from which the building got its name.
Exploring the real Havana you need to stay in La Habana Vieja or Centro Habana, which has what you actually want to see in Cuba. Old Buildings, colorful and in a state of not inhabitant, the smells of the street and the feeling of being somewhere else. Trying to avoid the Tourists spots in Havana isn’t as easy as said, best time is before they get up from their party night out, in the early morning and wander around the streets to capture. Seeing the real Havana is eye opening and in the same way exciting, as you feel the rhythm of the cuban’s their way of entering the day and making a living. I feel the emotion of the city and the cubans, the colors, the hope for the future.
I wanted to capture the every day life from old and young, the diversity between modern and postmodern Cuba. See how Havana is keeping up with the world over their boarders and how the tourism will affect their lifestyle. Capture the traditions and the strengths in people faces, see how the young people approach the new Cuba in their way of dressing up and seeing connected. Cubans are not like big city people they are more relaxed and take every day as it comes.
Sipping coffee from the old lady on the corner for a few pesos in the early morning, buying my breakfast same way and fruits always from the same fruit stand, people know fast you are not the typical tourist and respect you more. They know you and greet you, you are a familiar face in their day and that makes it so easy to capture them and get to know them more. I used in the begging my Leica M (Typ 240) with 50mm 0.95 Noctilux and 35mm 1.4 Summilux because this camera is not so intimidating for the first approach, later on I used mainly Leica SL with 24-90 Elmarit for street photos and as people knew my face they ask me to show them what I captured.
It is easy to approach local and most of them are very relaxed with getting photographed in an appropriate way and show them as they are. That is a simple way to show you care about their privacy and do not interrupt with there work or daily approach. Come on, we saw enough photos of the lady with the big glasses and the even bigger cigar’s posing for tourists for a dollar.
I am asking me constantly the question if for the Cubans the upcoming tourist invasions are positive or rather controversial. How will it effect their lives and what I saw now and what will I see in my next journeys to Cuba. See how the flow of information’s entering threw the few internet spaces in Havana change everything. For sure next year I will go back and will do it the same way as this year. Nothing planned, nothing pre organized only entering and get into the flow of Havana.
To know more about Lin Na’s work, please visit her website.