Cuba by A Cuban
The upcoming and deservedly hyped Reportage Festival has a line up of international photographers, the calibre of which have never (to my knowledge) gathered at once in Australia before. Flipping through the list of well known by-lines though, there was one name in particular that wasn’t familiar.
Raul Cañibano, Reportage director, Steven Dupont went on, was Cuban, his pictures “not about American cars from the ’50’s but humanity”. As soon as I saw some of the work I knew what he meant and having travelled to, photographed and soon to be exhibiting those photographs, I have to admit, the wind was somewhat taken out of my sails.
But then I’ve always been a firm believer that no non-native can hope to understand a culture, no less illustrate it through photographs, than the native themselves. For me, the colour of Cuba was as impossible to ignore. It complemented the vibrancy of the people and atmosphere of romantic decrepitness. The advantage that Cañibano, who was born two years after the Cuban revolution of 1959 and has been photographing for the better part of 20 years, is that for him, colour is superfluous, superficial. And so, in effacing colour, (that distracts those who aren’t used to it) Cañibano manages to divert directly to the heart of his country’s complex heart and, as Dupont put it, its “humanity”.
What else is remarkable about his work, particularly given Cuba’s relative isolation from the rest of the world (even today and online) is Cañibano’s technical proficiency and his complex and multi-dimensional compositions.
Cañibano will be exhibiting a retrospective of his work at Custom’s House, Sydney from May 24 to June 22. He will also be contributing to a group show (featured in the Noticeboard section of this blog) at 10×8 Gallery in Surry Hills from April 13.