Over on my andrewbutler.net site I have just uploaded a post about the transport of Cuba, this is the second of three posts and it features on the people who we met.
Sorry, this is lifted from the previous story, life’s too short
We visited Havana – Cuba in March, we came back and I for one returned exhausted. Two weeks later I took a tumble on a pushbike, the rest is history as they say.
Yes, when I go away I am there to photograph and Cuba offers some particular issues. Firstly t’Internet isn’t what we know in these parts. To access it one buys a scratch card and sits in a park with the rest of the world. Speeds are limited so in my terms there’s no immediate Dropbox backup which means I’m immediately in my ‘awkward place’.
But before that there is the issue of flying into a country with an embarrassment of technology, this is a poor country that is rich, or a rich country that is poor. Whichever way the Nikons and Leicas that I was carrying around are firmly in the realms of the unattainable for most, but I was allowed through Cuban customs – yes they check your bags on entering the country.
Cuba and Havana in particular is incredibly welcoming, sure you will get hustled but deal with it politely and the response will be polite and good humoured. Say hello and people will say hello back and smile too.
The Camera Shop
I have a bit of a tradition of hunting out the Leica boutiques in cities that we visit and then spending some time chatting (talking twaddle). I had some recollection that Havana had a Leica store, but from the first morning this seemed highly unlikely. However we searched for it and in our search found fantastic exhibitions, Leica shooters – both film and digital.
And indeed after a few days Karin came up to me and said she’d found the Leica store, yes, sure enough underneath the Gran Hotel Manzana Kempinski La Habana there was a store selling Leicas, Nikons and Canons. In amongst these shots there is a young man with a red tie, he worked in the store and told us that he’d worked in the state-owned store for three years and sold three cameras! Because the companies can’t/won’t supply direct the already expensive items end up being sold at a premium so the store has become an odd modern museum. Someone once bought a pro-spec Canon, he bought in a box of cash, the shop didn’t, know what to do with so much money.
Yet photography happens in Havana. We met Eduardo at the Deauville Hotel, this is where we bought the internet access cards from. Eduardo was working at the coffee bar and came over and asked to look at my Leica M9, he then went back to the bar and returned with his lovely Leica M6 and went of to explain that he was a photographer, principally street work working with film; there’s a shot of him above.
This is a fantastic place filled with fantastic people. I’ve no answers about how to bridge the gap or how to deal with the carbon footprint but Havana is well and truly under my skin.