Looking Through Portals in Cuba (57 pictures)

Photo feature by Jenny Cressman

HAVANA TIMES – I am a Canadian who has been visiting and photographing Cuba for a decade. In reviewing my collection of photos recently, I noticed an unintended theme: portals.

From a photographic perspective, portals can provide frames and establish borders for photos. Windows and doors are the most common framing structures, but other elements can also be used for this purpose. Sometimes bars, vines or leaves can serve as frames and add interest to an image by creating the sensation of looking through a veil.

As a naturally curious person, I often find myself drawn to windows and doorways because I wonder what is on the other side. What will I see when I look through? I’m even more intrigued when I see a dark space beyond the entrance. What secrets lie beyond that darkened doorway? What’s in there?

In one of the photos, you will see an arched entrance made of concrete. Located beside the road sketched along the island’s southern coast, between Marea del Portillo and Santiago de Cuba, it is the gaping mouth of a tunnel that was never completed. The terrain proved too unstable and dangerous, so the road was built beside the mountain instead of beneath it. I couldn’t help but wonder how deep the partial tunnel went and what I would see if I went in with a flashlight. However, it probably wouldn’t have been safe for me to explore!

I did explore a little more deeply inside a home I visited in the city of Matanzas, as you will see in a series of three photos. I took one shot at the main entrance and then, following the light, walked forward and snapped a second photo. The third image reveals blue sky above an interior courtyard of what was once a palatial dwelling.

Another set of photos, taken in the Manaca Iznaga bell tower, shows how differently the same basic scenes can look, depending on the time of day and play of light. One time when I visited there, the glorious sunshine turned the portals a gorgeous shade of golden orange. On a different occasion, the sky was somewhat overcast so the portal frames were a muted beige tone, but the external scenes were more vivid.

To me, this is a reminder that what you see beyond a portal can change dramatically from one moment to the next. Timing makes a difference for photography, as it does for almost anything, and that’s also true for time itself. “Time brings all things to pass,” according to Aeschylus, ancient Greek playwright. What will the new year bring to pass?

As we cross the threshold into another decade, in a sense, we are stepping through a time portal. I’m curious about what lies beyond, and I’ll be eager to take more photos!


(Click on an image to display the gallery.)

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