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Charles Johnston:

Charles Johnston:

Not many photographers arriving in Cuba manage to elude the island?s exuberant natural scenery and spectacular colonial architecture. Postcard-perfect beaches, clear cobalt seas and buildings of exceptional beauty and splendour will usually take hold of the photographer?s lens.

However, if it?s not the island?s natural wonders or its eclectic and diverse urban landscapes that attract the camera, it?s inevitably the gregarious and gesticulating inhabitants who seem to live more outdoors than in their own homes. Cubans play, read, fight, love or dance in full view of everyone.

This is why Charles Johnstone?s scenes of Havana are surprising and unexpected, as they explore inexplicably deserted streets and parks — familiar environments photographed beyond any significance conferred on them by regular usage.

His pictures are devoid of any narrative or emotional intention. Johnstone does not seek to relate a story or stir emotions with the immediate beauty of a sunset, or surprise us with an old 1950s U.S. classic car still miraculously moving about the streets taking us back to pre-revolutionary Mafia days. The objects captured by this artist are stripped of all content — they cease to be trucks, cars, buildings, umbrellas, buses, walls, cars, an abandoned pool or a basketball court. They become pure forms which are integrated into cleverly calculated compositions where nothing is fortuitous: spatial layouts, angles, lines that intersect each other or stretch out, curves that close up, textures that are contrasted or blended, shadows that delimit or fragmentize, and colours that disharmonize or complement each other.

An abstraction for perceiving the city in a very different light, this is indeed as stark new Havana.
January 2008

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