When an email clattered into my inbox on my wedding day I was under the cosh of a ‘no-internet’ embargo from my better half – no Facebook, Twitter or email. I had to live in the moment, Â enjoy the day and “be present”.Â Totally understandable. perfectly reasonable and for me, as someone who uses social media for work 24/7, a well-overdue break from interacting with my phone and camera for once.
But the subject line “Havana Club Gap Year in Cuba – will you help us?” was too goodÂ not to open and just have a little look at! I mean come on, one of the most photographic countries in the entire world.
Fast forward six months. I’m on a 32 hour plane ride, via the UK, to Castro’s little gem of an island in theÂ Caribbean, Havana is calling and I’m armed with my Nikon D7000. and every lens I can carry.
The combination of colourful but tired colonial buildings, beautifulÂ eclecticÂ people, moody skies and typically Cuban scenes i.e cigars, rum and old cars, make Havana a photographers dream. I had a week to wander the streets of the city, feel its warmth, listen to the vibe and understand the lifestyle of the people who call this socialist country home. There’sÂ somethingÂ deeply beautiful about the place, sparking conversation up with any tourist is the name of the game, and that’s not just along the well trodden tourist paths. Venture further afield into the quieter residential parts of town and it’s the older generation who want to talk. The Malecon forms the meeting point in the city; a seven kilometre long seawall built in the last century to protect Havana from the water, nows serves as a social hotspot in the day and throughout the night. It was the prefect place to sit with a long lens and watch waves crash into the wall engulfing the kids below in cool seawater, perfect on a hot stormy day.
All images shot by Ben Southall on a Nikon D7000.
The side of Cuba most tourists strive to see is there too; the classical women with cigars in mouths, the Cuban dancers, the bar loaded with mojitos and of course the cars left over from theÂ 1950’s – all have you diving for your camera in a rather predictable way.
A week later and I’ve filled my memory cards to capacity, left the hotel with a different lens every day and still found enough content to focus on. This is a seriously stunning place to set off Â your shutter.
Oh and yes…of course I helped Havana Club out, by helping their domestic sales in rum reach a seasonal high.
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