Photographer note: “The image of the red car and the waves was the very first image I envisioned, even before I went to Cuba. It took me five years and more than thirty trips up the lighthouse’s one hundred forty-four stairs to get exactly what I wanted — to get the light, the waves, the car to all line up with the vision I had. By the time I got the shot I was on a first name basis with the lighthouse keeper — who thought I was completely crazy, lugging my heavy camera gear up the lighthouse so many times. Five years later, I asked my wife to marry me here.” All images courtesy of Lorne Resnick. All rights reserved.

This Moment, Exactly So.

My twenty-year portrait of Cuba

Pixel Magazine
May 11, 2017 · 5 min read

by Lorne Resnick

I first visited Cuba in the summer of ’95 — attracted by the mystery, history and photographic possibilities of the island. At that time, I was only a Canadian citizen (I became a dual citizen in 2000), so it was easy to get in — I simply went. That summer was, as most summers are when I’ve been in Cuba, searingly, intensely, wonderfully hot. My second day there, I met a girl named America.

Image courtesy of Lorne Resnick. All rights reserved.
Images courtesy of Lorne Resnick. All rights reserved.

She took me to a club called the Palacio de la Salsa at the Hotel Riviera on the Malecón, where a fifteen-piece Cuban orchestra of world-class musicians was playing to a jam-packed crowd of the best dancers on the planet. I was mesmerized. I was hypnotized. I was awe-struck.

Photographer note: “Illa was a good friend of mine. He has this gorgeous 1952 caddy that he rented out to people for weddings or Quinceañera’s. He had parked in in front of the Portages Cigar factory for this shot. About a year after I took this shot a hurricane blew through and destroyed the sign.” Image courtesy of Lorne Resnick. All rights reserved.
Photographer note: “Older sister of Mailenis (see below) looking out the door of her house.” Image courtesy of Lorne Resnick. All rights reserved.

The sweat, the heat, the sensually glorious dancing, the (very loud) music, the electricity in the air. I planned to stay for two weeks and stayed for two months. I fell in love with the country. With its music, its people, its cars, its buildings, its sun, its stunning light, its friendships, and that special heat that is so uniquely Cuban.

Photographer note: “Ana and Alberto. Friends of mine perform an Afro-Cuban dance on a rooftop in Old Havana.” Images courtesy of Lorne Resnick. All rights reserved.

Annie Leibovitz once said, “A thing that you see in my pictures is that I was not afraid to fall in love with these people.” And that’s the way it is for me in Cuba. Constantly falling in love — even if sometimes only for 1/60 of a second. Some of the images in the book are of places I only visited once and people I only saw by chance only once, but many of the images are of places I visited again and again, and of people who were open enough to let me fall in love with them over a period of many years.

Images courtesy of Lorne Resnick. All rights reserved.
Photographer note: “Yadira Soto Arias. A great singer from a local salsa band in Trinidad.” Images courtesy of Lorne Resnick. All rights reserved.

Being a fine-art photographer, as opposed to a photojournalist, my goal in creating images in Cuba (and presenting them in this book) is not only to show what Cuba is like, but more importantly for me, what it feels like to be in Cuba.

Not only have I spent many peak moments of my life in Cuba over the last two decades, but in 2002, I asked my wife, Juliet, to marry me atop the lighthouse of Morro Castle in Havana [ed. note: see top image].

Photographer note: “Patricia. A prima Ballerina in Cuba’s National Ballet.” Images courtesy of Lorne Resnick. All rights reserved.

She said yes, we popped a bottle of champagne, and at that precise moment, the lighthouse keeper came out and told us we had to leave, as the lighthouse was closing.

We shared our news and, with a (typically Cuban) joyous smile on his face, he said, “Congratulations! Listen, I have to go. Why don’t you enjoy the sunset and just lock up the castle when you leave!” With that, he was off, leaving us alone atop the lighthouse in a 425 year-old castle guarding the entrance to Havana. A surreal and sublime moment.

Photographer note: “One of my favorites. I shot this image and only later realized the impact of it. This was my second choice for a cover. Years later I went back and found them and discovered they were sisters.” Images courtesy of Lorne Resnick. All rights reserved.

I want to create images that communicate the elation I feel every second when I’m in Cuba. It is a feeling like no other — moments filled with passion, love, joy, desire, grace, beauty, friendship, and laughter. To paraphrase photographer Henri Cartier-Bresson: “If I go to a place, it’s to try and get that one picture about which people will say, ‘Ah, this is true. You felt it right.’” I want this book it to be like what Cuba is for me — profound, vibrant, trippy, electric — a place where just walking the streets, breathing the air, and connecting with the people feels like a contact high.

Photographer note: “Gregorio Fuentes. He was Hemingway’s guide and inspiration for the book the Old Man and the Sea. Pictured here on his 96th birthday.” Images courtesy of Lorne Resnick. All rights reserved.

I came to Cuba initially for its history and mystique. But I kept coming back again and again for the people — for an endless string of experiences like the one atop the lighthouse. Warm, openhearted people embracing you and inviting you into their lives and hearts. It’s a heady, intoxicating combination for anyone — especially a photographer.

Lorne Resnick is an award-winning fine art photographer based in Los Angeles. Follow Lorne on Instagram, and buy his book, “This Moment, Exactly So.”

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