Photographing Cuba with just two rolls of film

I don’t know whether it was the heat or just a technical malfunction, but when the two batteries for your camera die on the first day of a trip around Cuba it’s the beginning of a nightmare. With no chance of replacing the toxic tubes in a country where most people still live on rations and make an average of $20USD a month, I was forced to be resourceful.

The film I had remaining consisted of two rolls of 120 film and a disposable camera. That’s 43 photos. I’ve seen people take that many selfies in a matter of seconds. The following images are the result of eight days in the intriguing country of Cuba. It’s true, it feels like a time warp, it is evolving rapidly, the culture is energising, the people are seriously hospitable and it’s pretty much still a communist country. If you’re thinking of visiting, stop reading about it and book a flight.

A millisecond reaction to a glimmer of red light filling the frame. With such little film making a mistake wasn’t an option.

From the balcony of our casa I heard yelling – “la lluvia!” – coming from the street level below. Kids were playing soccer as the rain came pouring down. After taking this photograph, about a dozen of the kids crowded around me and asked to see the image. To their surprise my camera had no screen. We exchanged emails and they took selfies with me on their iPhones, an unexpected experience. It’s an intriguing time to be young in Cuba as freedoms relax for the first time in twenty years. This generation of youths will lead their country as it develops from strength to strength.

An albino boy and grandfather at a pottery factory. The grandfather called me over and slipped a small clay bell into my hands and told me not to tell anyone. 

The many skies of Santa Clara.   

Colourful Cuba. Pastel tones, terracotta tiles and lush greenery make up Cuba’s palette. Trinidad sits on the southern coast of central Cuba within the Sancti Spiritus province. The town is like stepping back into the 1850s, surrounded by rolling mountains and looking out at the Caribbean Sea. Horse drawn carts frequent the cobblestone town more so than cars, and markets remain the sole venue for trade. Havana may be compared to the 1950s but Trinidad will give you a real sense colonial life.

Dilapidated buildings make the streets look like war zones, a common scene in Havana. Whilst the city makes major efforts to restore these buildings, most are left neglected due to the vast quantity that need repair.

Touts Vumon, a young man, sits outside a ration store in Cienfuegos.

Reacting to a constraining political regime, the Cuban people have a lot to express. The standard of creative skill here is extremely high.   

7am, goodbye for now, Cuba.  |  @benjobutcher