Cuba's digital destination
In his own words: Ernesto Bazan
The Cuban farmland opened up new windows of opportunity for my work. From 2001 to 2005 I spent long periods of time with them. I made new friends while wandering in this unique landscape that strongly reminded me of my Sicilian countryside. I returned regularly to visit my friends Fidel, Miguel, Jose, Inesita and their families. Our interactions allowed me the opportunity to experience and photograph intimate rituals such as working in the fields, sharing meals, smoking sugar-tasting cigars rolled before my eyes by Fidel’s skilful hands, sipping sweet rum shots as we conversed about the sowing and the harvesting of crops and about our families and our existence. My way of shooting changed. Taking pictures became almost part of this ritual-it was no longer the main priority, just a component of this rich exchange among human beings.
Bazan Cuba (2009)
This is a spectacular book. Referred to by a reviewer as a Parting Love Letter in Images, “his account is not an observer’s but an insider’s, presented in an uncommon, even a labyrinthine, language”. The excellent review by Regina Cherry expands: “The viewer/traveler is there with Bazan who seems to be within the image, almost becoming his subjects, not looking in from the outside — he is complicit. With innocence, love and tenderness the dance of life (in a geriatric home) continues with the corner of an eye perched over a shoulder looking out for death. Havana´s magic comes to life — I can hear the music, feel the Afro-Cuban rhythms in the photographs.”
In the words of the publisher
The singular apparition that is Bazan Cuba is not what just any camera would register, but Ernesto’s way of seeing, and no one else’s. Of the thousands of pictures of Cuba by Cubans and foreign photographers, none that I know look very much like these. The images here are stamped throughout with the photographer’s name, his perceptions, his mind, and they tell a story that belongs to him alone… He traveled to Cuba several times from 1992 to 1997, fell in love there with Sissy, a Cuban, married in ’97 and made the place his home.
When Pietro and Stefano, his twin boys, arrived, that bound him yet more tightly to the island. His black and white response, saturated as it is with his sad love for the country, was a perfect fit for the country, was a perfect fir for the island’s condition. In the 1990s he had stumbled into a historical moment, a time that Fidel Castro euphemistically called ‘the special period,’ when Cuba’s patron, the Soviet Union, collapsed and send the island into a spiral of deprivation and radical change… His account is not an observer’s but an insider’s, presented in an uncommon, even a labyrinthine, language. Ernesto’s Cuba, which he regards with intimacy, fervor, burning affection and quiet gloom, is fabulously dark, like a tale told at night in the piercing light of a candle flame… Ernesto was born and brought up in Sicily, studied photography at the School of Visual Arts in New York, and first visited Cuba a decade after graduation… At age seventeen, he had a dream in which he clearly heard the words, ‘You need to become a photographer.’ … Bazan Cuba is in its way a love story, troubled, as love stories are, but a love story nonetheless, about a photographer and the country he claimed, or reclaimed… One day in 2006 he was summoned to the police station and told that he could no longer teach photographic workshops. No reason was offered, but he was warned that if he didn’t stop, he and his family would be in trouble. And so they left… –
About Ernesto Bazan:
Ernesto Bazan was born in Palermo, on the island of Sicily in Italy in 1959. He received his first camera when he was 14 years old and began photographing daily life in his native city and in the rural areas of Sicily. Photography has been more than a profession: a true passion, a mission in his life. At the age of 19, he went to New York to study photography at the School of Visual Arts from where he graduated in 1982.
Bazan has published several books: The Perpetual Past, Passing Through, The First Twenty Years, Island, Molo Nord. In 2008, his recently created publishing house BazanPhotos Publishing recently released his new book BazanCuba on 14 years of life and photography on the island. In May 2009,the book was awarded Best Book Of The Year at the New York Photo Festival. His next book Al Campo, an in-depth exploration in color of life in the Cuban countryside, is due to be published in 2011 by BazanPhotos Publishing.
He has had exhibitions in Europe, Latin America and the United States. His photographs have been collected by collectors and museums among which MOMA and ICP in New York, SFMOMA in San Francisco, the Museum of Fine Arts in Houston, the Center for Documentary Studies at Duke University, Durham, the South East Museum of Photography in Daytona, the Fondazione Italiana della Fotografia in Turin, the Biblioteque Nationale in Paris and the Musée Réattu in Arles.
From 1992 to 2006, he lived and photographed the island of Cuba documenting the unique time in Cuban history called The Special Period. This body of work has given him the privilege to win some of the world most prestigious photographic awards among them The W. Eugene Smith grant; the Mother Jones Foundation for Photojournalism, the Dorothea Lang Paul Taylor prize at Duke University, N.C., the World Press Photo and two fellowships from the Alicia Patterson Foundation and the Guggenheim Foundation.
In 2002, Ernesto Bazan created his own photographic workshop www.bazanphotos.com providing special emphasis in Latin America. Teaching has become his ruling passion. Hundreds of students have studied with him in the last ten years. He lives with his wife Sissy, his twin boys Pietro and Stefano and their three dogs Diva, Ono and Akamaru in Veracruz, Mexico. September 2009