Cuba's digital destination
In his own words:
The Cuban people face many questions about their future at the start of the twenty-first century: Will Cuban socialism endure in the new century? Can the Cuban people continue to endure it? What are its successes? Failures? What will happen to Cuba and the Cuban people after Fidel Castro? The photographs of Cuba: Picturing Change explore Cuba?s greatest strength?her people.
As the eyes of the world increasingly turn to the small but resilient Caribbean island and its political leader who has outlasted at least ten U.S. administrations since 1959, so, too, do the Cuban people look on and wait for the inevitable change in leadership.
Cuba’s next chapter remains largely unwritten and unknown, but a burgeoning tourist industry in Cuba and waning public support of the embargo in the United States indicate that the forces of change are becoming more conspicuous, if not immediately effectual, against Castro?s resistance to economic freedom and his adherence to a one-party government.
Fighting fatigue from the last four decades, present-day Cubans exude an amazing spirit and passion for living. Speaking from a non-Cuban, American perspective, however, I believe we have ignored the people of Cuba for too long. The poor political relationship between our countries has all but hidden the captivating Cuban culture. In this work I have tried to examine the compassion and sense of hope of the Cuban people. I have tried to explore the questions surrounding the current climate?s ultimate impact on Cuban identity?both individually and collectively. I have tried to portray the determined rhythms of the Cuban culture, where we may see joy, peace, and individual strength, but where we may also and insecurity, uncertainty, and vulnerability.
Although I did not undertake this project with any political agenda in mind, I came to realize that I could not approach what I want to say in these photographs by avoiding politics. Cubans have very little policy-making participation in their political or economic environment. Consequently, an almost tangible tension has evolved within the culture from the increasingly pervasive uncertainty as to what will happen to the people next. I believe?and a number of these photographs reflect this?that Cuba is on the verge of a new ?revolution,? and barring substantial political and economic reforms, the Cuban people will be mostly subject to, rather than a part of, any changes that may ultimately occur.
As an outsider, I cannot be the voice of the Cuban people. I can only offer this perspective of a culture at a defining moment?a culture whose complex history is marked by struggle and whose transition may likely be, as well. ‘
No one has ever described what it means to be alive?and to live?in a single photograph, poem, or work. Art will always be a conversation with the human experience, an ongoing process of exploration and discovery, of revelation and becoming. I hope these photographs and essays will serve to be a small part of the larger conversation about the Cuban people at this turning point in their history. May they also serve to connect each of us to the universal mysteries and challenges?and great opportunities?of being a part of the ever-changing and unfolding human story.
E. Wright Ledbetter, 2002
In the words of the publisher:
With insightful essays—in English and Spanish—from Louis A. P?rez Jr., America’s preeminent Cuba scholar, and Ambrosio Fornet, renowned Cuban author and screenwriter, Cuba: Picturing Change introduces the work of photographer E. Wright Ledbetter, whose images create a captivating portrait of the remarkable Cuban culture as it faces the complex forces of change.
Made from visits to Cuba over a four-year period (1997-2001), Ledbetter’s photographs take us on a compelling journey within a culture pressured by numerous internal and external difficulties, where the resulting climate is saturated with the tension and uncertainty brought on by a political and economic future that continues to evolve with no clear direction.
Graphically alluring and rich in metaphor, Ledbetter’s photographs focus on the overwhelming power and spirit of the Cuban people. They also explore what he believes is an imminent Cuban culture shift and inevitable redefinition of Cuban identity.
As Ledbetter’s visual narrative unfolds, however, the photographs begin to reveal a greater depth and mystery, framed by the honest eye of a humanist and the compassion and perspective of an artist.
Cuba is a setting in which the questions surrounding its future become the questions all cultures face as social systems—political, economic, and otherwise—help shape human experience.
The photographs and essays of Cuba: Picturing Change emerge as a beautiful, balanced, and inclusive body of work. They capture one view of Cuba on the cusp of centuries, and at the same time explore the timeless art of human perseverance and the powerful current of the ever-changing human story.
About the writer
Ambrosio Fornet: Renowned Cuban author, literary critic, editor, screenwriter, lecturer, and professor, Ambrosio Fornet was born in Bayamo, Cuba, in 1932. He studied at New York University and at the Universidad Central de Madrid, where he finished in 1959. His books include One Step from the Deluge (1958) and The Book in Cuba (1994), a study of Cuba’s editorial movement during the colonial period. Professor Fornet has edited numerous volumes including the Anthology of the Contemporary Cuban Story (1967), Narrations of Franz Kafka (1964), and Recovered Memories: Introduction to the Literary Speech of Dispersion (2000), which features the literary discourse of exiled Cuban authors. He also edited the volume Bridging Enigma: Cubans on Cuba (1997), which was a special issue of the “South Atlantic Quarterly” published by Duke University.
Among his movie scripts Portrait of Teresa (1979) stands out. Professor Fornet has taught or lectured at numerous institutions, including the University of Havana’s School of Scientific Information, the San Antonio de Ba?os International School of Film and Television, and at the universities of Alicante and Extremadura in Spain. He was a Visiting Professor at Duke University in 1999. He currently serves as Chairman of the Editorial Council of the Union of Writers and Artists of Cuba. He is a Full Adjunct Professor at the Superior Institute of Art and a member of the Cuban Academy of Language in Havana, where he currently lives. Ambrosio Fornet is the contributing essayist for Cuba: Picturing Change.