The Gaze of a Young Cuban Photographer

by Helson Hernandez

Laura Capote

HAVANA TIMES — Laura Capote’s images are representative of a new generation of Cuban visual artists concerned with their times and society. As the artist tells us, “The photographic process has drawn from many different visions.”

HT: You’re very young. How long have you been a photographer for?

Laura Capote: Well, I was always drawn to the visual arts world and have always in a way been linked to it, as a constant observer. I took my first steps in photography in 2011, without any previous training. I relied on the help of a great friend of mine, who taught me the basics of the camera, framing and composition. The next step was stepping out onto the street and taking pictures. That same year, I took a basic photography course at the Las Parras School for the Arts and Trades. I then began to participate in all photography contests and joint exhibitions I could find, setting up my own personal exhibitions as well.

HT: You don’t hold a visual arts degree.

LC: I completed the Information Sciences major at the Faculty of Communications of the University of Havana, in 2014.

HT: Why the change in profession?

LC: I wouldn’t call it a change of profession; I would say I do both things at once. My major in Information Sciences has given me the tools I need to connect the two fields, which I began to do while still at university. It allowed me to have a more profound perspective on the data, information and knowledge we are exposed to on a daily basis or that surround us. With a simple photograph, we can document a precise instant, an epic and historical moment.

HT: What stories do your photographs capture?

LC: I’m not looking for a specific story; I feel I simply go out in search of the value of things that are there, within everyone’s reach, things that aren’t appreciated at first glance. I am after the essence which in away define an action or makes up our collective memory.

Fiebre por ti (Love fever)

HT: Tell us about Fiebre de ti (“Love Fever”)

LC: It was my first solo exhibition, held at the Concha Ferrant Gallery in Guanabacoa in 2012. The exhibition was aimed at documenting the recovery of colonial architecture, within the homes of Guanabacoa. The interiors of these homes afford us evidence of our colonial past and of the roots that have made it into a national heritage site. Every house interior shows us an evolution, changes and deterioration. Every interior is a tradition that has been preserved, as every family tries to hold on to their customs and lifestyles. They are chiefly responsible for maintaining and conserving these architectural styles that embody the era they were built in, and show us how the environment was developed in accordance with people’s means.

This was without a doubt what launched my career as a photographer. Since then, I feel every solo exhibition I’ve had has made me evolve in terms of my aesthetic and concepts. The values I defend continue to be the same, though.

HT: What role do you believe new Cuban photographers play in today’s Cuba?

LC: The photographic process has drawn from many different visions, perspectives, interpretations, spaces and disciplines. It is defined as the act encompassing those actions required to obtain an image or as the result of this process, as the photograph itself, as well as the act of revealing pertinent information. With respect to the importance of new Cuban photographers, I believe photography has become one of the important means of communication and form of visual expression that has a bearing on human existence in many different ways. It allows us to extend human vision to the kingdom of invisible objects, or to capture events that happen too quickly to be registered by the human eye. Currently, everyone has access to this active and creative medium, which reflects the emotional reality of the creator of these images.

by Laura Capote

HT: You also work at the Office of the Havana City Historian.

LC: Currently, I work at the Fototeca, attached to the Office of the Historian, where I am employed as an expert in charge of managing, organizing and conserving the valuable photo collections kept there. These have heritage value for the nation, as they document the development of photography in Cuba through a broad range of photographic processes and media, attesting to the evolution of the photographic technology used as well. I could say I’m fortunate to have a job that allows me to develop as a professional from these two perspectives.

HT: Tell us about photos you plan to take.

LC: My photographs have taken me to two exhibitons this year. The first is a two-person exhibition titled “Dual,” with Duwane J. Coates as co-author, and the second is a sole exhibition titled “Retrospective.” I’ve made use of the double exposure technique for both exhibitions. This consists in juxtaposing two photographs to produce a combination of the two in a single exposure. I’ve made a point of producing simple compositions, in which the city, faces and objects combine to yield a new image. I feel the photos I have yet to take are of the things in plain sight, those things that often go unnoticed and that, placed in communication with other things, produce a discourse that conveys our culture, social identity and sources of information.

One thought on “The Gaze of a Young Cuban Photographer

  • February 9, 2016 at 10:02 pm

    Very interesting work. It is wonderful to read about the work going on in photography in Cuba, both in an historical context, and by working contemporary photographers. The documentation and preservation of your cultural heritage is of utmost importance as Cuba opens its doors to more international exchange, trade, and development.
    Elizabeth Gill Lui
    Director of Visual Arts
    American University Prep School
    Los Angeles, California

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