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Photographing local life in July/August

Bushey, England
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Photographing local life in July/August

I'm considering going to Cuba around 20 July for 3 weeks (only suitable time due to work) to possibly go to 3-4 locations (Havana, Trinidad, Santiago de Cuba). This is for photography, mainly to shoot people and not landscapes, so as well as festivals/celebrations I'm after local street life, people going about their business. I'm aware of the 26 July celebrations but I'm concerned that late July/August will be hot months that usually dictate people spending as little time outdoors and either disappearing indoors or off to the beaches. So is that time of year still a busy/active time for locals?

Calgary, Canada
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21. Re: Photographing local life in July/August

Unless you speak a little Spanish and your camera kit is very small and innocuous I think that a decent jinetero (hustler) to act as interpreter/guide can be money well spent, especially in Havana. He'll know lots of out-of-the-way-places/situations that you won't find yourself. If you like to change up with different lenses then having someone watch your back isn't a bad idea either in some neighbourhoods.

It's certainly not necessary though... you can easily get by without a helper... but it's money well spent for certain shooters, depending on their individual style...

Cheers,

Terry

Apopka, Florida
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22. Re: Photographing local life in July/August

Movilla: I always travel and photograph alone everywhere. I have found some of my best places to photograph while lost. I once got into what I thought was a horse drawn taxi out in the country which eventually proved to be a farmer bringing his kids home from school. I spent a delightful afternoon with the entire family on their farm. And they gave me a ride in a wagon back to the paved road at the end of the day.

Personal safety is never as issue in Cuba. Violent crime against tourists is dealt with harshly. There is a minor amount of snatch grab run crime against tourists. I use a camera strap wrapped around my wrist in Havana and Santiago. Personally I cannot bother with a camera bag so just carry a pocket full of film.

I own David Alan Harvey's Cuba book. Yes, it is excellent. I looked at Alex Webb and his wife's Cuba book but did not buy it. I do own his "Crossings". Do not overlook Walker Evans 1933 Cuba book.

FWIW, I never let them x-ray my film entering or leaving Cuba. Sometimes easy, infrequently a challenge. I know how Cubans keep things working by swapping out parts. I will not trust my film to an x-ray machine that is maintained by a guy who drives a 1949 Ford with a Renault diesel engine, Chevrolet transmission, Plymouth rear end, and Buick interior. "Hey, this 10 Mw laser tube works much better than the original .5 Mw original that burned out"

Bushey, England
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23. Re: Photographing local life in July/August

Bob,

That's good to know. I wasn't aware Walker Evans went to Cuba. I'll have to check that out.

Fortunately I shoot digital so no issues with x-ray machines.

Good shooting!

Martin

Havana, Cuba
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24. Re: Photographing local life in July/August

All good advice from a couple of experienced Cuba travelers, although I'm not sure I completely agree with it all.

The do-it-all-yourself thing is often fine, and those who know Havana and Cuba certainly don't need guides (or jineteros) to help them go by things they have done a hundred times before, but for someone arriving for the first time, landing in Cuba can be like landing om Mars to some. It's n many ways a bizarro world where everything works differently than most are used to.

One of the most impressing photographers I ever saw Cuba photos from is Robert Polidori and I know he used a permanent guide on his first visit. The risk for someone spending all that money going to Havana just to photograph is that he'll end up shooting on Obispo and Plaza Armas and not get much further, first of all because he doesn't know where to go, secondly because it scares a lot of people stepping off the tourist track with a camera. The simple look of Havana back alleys will make any turn back to the main street quickly.

I also have to disagree that snatch and grabs are minor. I have seen too many with my own eyes to maintain that idea. And more often than not, right off the tourist trail, a few blocks down side streets from heavily policed and trafficked main streets, like Obispo and Neptuno. Last summer I saw three daytime snatch and grabs on the same day. One camera snatch, one ladies purse, one iphone/smartphone. There are lots of those, but the streetwise traveler, like you perhaps, Bob, probably doesn't notice because you know how to act, what to look out for, can recognize a look in a Cubans eyes, know what's around the next corner etc.

But it all depends on the person. For someone with vast experience traveling (and photographing) in developing countries (off the tourist trail) and speaking Spanish as well, I wouldn't worry. For someone without this background, I wouldn't underestimate Havana.

Edited: 4:47 pm, April 25, 2013
Apopka, Florida
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25. Re: Photographing local life in July/August

DonTomas does bring up some valid points. We do tend to forget our first visit with that occasional wondering what the hell did we get ourselves into feeling. A first visit solo is OK for some but not for everyone. One needs to assess their own level of self confidence and adaptability. I consider those much more important than language skills.

Movilla: If you decide you want someone to show you around for a few days, drop me a private note and I can recommend someone who has worked with photographers before.

Durham, North...
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26. Re: Photographing local life in July/August

It looks like everyone on here covered the basics, so for a laugh maybe take a t-shirt that says "Yo no pago por fotos" would be a hit.

Europe
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27. Re: Photographing local life in July/August

And do not underestimate Santiago either. I think that it is just as risky as Havana when it comes to snatch and grabs and violence. Especially during Carneval time !!!!

Naarden, The...
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28. Re: Photographing local life in July/August

I did the Havana Photo Tour with Yourowncuba last year and it was amazing. It was my first time in Havana and I could never have done 10 percent of what I did with those guys on my own. We were a group of 6 people spending five days all over Havana. We started in Old Havana where there were lots of tourists but after that we spent most of the time in places I would have never ever have found or thought of going to on my own. I think we were in 10 or 15 or more neighborhoods, so I got a lot more out of this tour than just a thousand photos, I also got to know Havana really well in just a week.

I am sure some will rather go by themselves but I would be a little scared to walk around those areas we were in on my own with a big camera. It’s not that Havana is dangerous at all, but if you don’t speak Spanish there are just too many people around talking and asking and wanting to be your friend and you never know who to talk to or watch out for. The guide quickly dismissed any bad or annoying types, but welcomed and talked to others and many of them modeled for portraits spontaneously.

I was a bit hesitant to join such a tour and it was an impulsive decision but I am really glad I did. I’m not so much a super social guy, but turns out the other people in the group were a lot of fun so since I was alone in Havana I ended up going out to dinner after the days with them and partied some as well at night. Also it’s not a typical tour and you don’t feel like a stupid tourist following a guide, the guide is more like a driver and fixer and down to earth person who just takes you to the best places and make sure you are safe.

I found this thread because I had forgotten the website and was looking for the link to recommend it to a friend who is going to Havana to take photos. I was wondering why I could not find more reviews of the tour so I thought I would just make a short one.

Lastly, look forward! Havana is an amazing place to shoot photos! Most joy I ever got from my camera for sure. There’s a photo waiting on every corner.

Melbourne, Australia
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29. Re: Photographing local life in July/August

"I did the Havana Photo Tour with Yourowncuba last year and it was amazing."

Note this is website link

http://www.yourowncuba.com/

30. Re: Photographing local life in July/August

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