HAVANA TIMES — I still remember the discussion regarding the Internet my father had with a woman. It was heated, as all my father’s discussions tend to be.
I don’t recall – nor does it really matter – what the lady had said, but she had backed an opinion saying she had read about it on the Internet.
In response, my father rebuked her for something very similar to what the official discourse had to say about the web some ten years ago: that it was something diabolical whose only purpose was spreading lies and pornography.
It may sound extreme, but that was the idea they sought to instill in people a few years back, even if those weren’t the exact words they used. I speak of “years” because I haven’t listened to or read any journalistic pieces from the official Cuban media in a very long time. I don’t doubt that, from time to time, the press still publishes an article which subtly criticizes the Internet. The reasons are well-known.
I have been interested in photography since my adolescence. Photographers, however, aren’t particularly inclined to sharing their knowledge, and, as far as I know, there are no photography schools in Cuba. It took me a long time to find a good course on the subject. I did well and, for a while, I learned quite a lot, practicing the art as a photo journalist. I will always be grateful to those who gave me that opportunity.
The time came, however, when I simply needed to learn more.
One requires a fairly good computer to work in digital photography. That was the first obstacle I ran into I Cuba: I didn’t even have my own computer. How was I expected to edit images? How could I learn to use Photoshop better? How was I to work with RAW formats, when the computers one could get in Cuba were so old they couldn’t even handle that file format?
For press photograhy, one can make do with a camera and flash. But that is by no means the entire scope of photography.
When I arrived in Venezuela, not only did I have practically no knowledge about this and all other businesses, I also had no experience in the use of studio lights. How and where was I expected to buy professional studio lights in Cuba? My entire family lives in Cuba and is of humble means, earning salaries of 400 Cuban pesos a month – so, I couldn’t even dream of getting my hands on anything like that.
Even though the Venezuela I arrived in 3 years ago wasn’t Norway or Sweden, it seemed like it to me when compared to my country, where there are millions of restrictions and permanent product shortages.
Even though its Internet connection does not seem like the fastest for those who have been in other countries, I have obtained more information from it than 10 courses in Cuba could have afforded me.
It was simply marvelous – I can’t think of a better phrase.
Many people harbor the myth that it is impossible to advance professionally outside Cuba, particularly in the arts, literature and all professions somewhat removed from the commercial world. I have always been of the opinion, however, that one can achieve whatever you set your sights on. Faced with an authoritarian government like Cuba’s, it will always be more difficult to obtain what one wants. Perhaps the first step is to leave the island.
Here, it is merely a question of wanting something and devoting it the time we can. One has to study and study some more, and there’s nothing better than the Internet for that. I may not have the money to pay for courses and workshops at a school, but I will always have time to sit in front of the computer a couple of hours. It’s incredible how much information you can find about photography on the web.
In any job, constantly updating one’s knowledge is as important as knowing the basics. Being up to date is something very difficult in Cuba, to say nothing of learning to run a business.
Even though Venezuela is ceasing to be the country I knew, I still have the opportunity to continue learning here – not only through the Internet or about photography, but also about how to deal with customers and life in general. Here, as in most countries, life flows. In Cuba, it seems to be at a standstill, stagnant.
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