Cuba's digital destination
Preface from Poesia Escondida La Habana
By Mauro Vallinotto
On Cuba and Havana have been published hundreds, perhaps thousands of photographic books. The epic of the Revolution, with the murals of Fidel and the portraits of Che taken by Alberto Korda. Women of the Revolution beautiful and sunny with their penetrating and intriguing gaze. The mojitos at Bodeguita del Medio, and the colors of the Sierra de la Revolution, the colonial architecture of the Revolution, from Santa Clara to Trinidad, and harvesting of sugar cane of the Revolution which, in the transfiguration of images to be in use by us westerners, it becomes almost a festive Sunday picnic.
In the images of Luciano del Castillo this Cuba does not exist. Simply because Luciano has decided to let slide free the flow of his creativity and his emotions, without preconceived thesis and full intellectual freedom. He would not send the evidence, rather than the tracks from which to draw motives of deep reflections.
Almost on a journey around himself, Luciano is confronted with a reality not so new to him as the Cuban one, as with his past and his Sicilian heritage, with an accomplice awareness to the subjects portrayed in his photographs being both islanders and players in a world apart, the one that Westerners, for intellectual laziness or whatever, refusing to understand and accept.
Thus his photographs of Havana “Vieja” convey a kaleidoscope of sensations that refer to “Kalsa”, one of the four historic districts of Palermo: the same lights that are reflected in puddles, abandoned cars in a street covered only by stray dogs, the same smells of food kitchens hidden by fleeing poor wooden shutters, and the most pungent of burning tires and rubbish in the corner of a courtyard away.
The traces of Luciano are the ones left on the faces of old and young, mature women and provocative girls. Where his photographic eye witnesses with love and objectivity, almost a contradiction, the rituals of everyday life and the difficulty of living of all people who must fight for their economic and moral independence. Luciano’s pictures are fragments of thoughts, emotions, deep involvement, direct portraits, snapped looking into the eyes of his subjects, or through networks or iron bars, as if to put a diaphragm of shame between himself and others, until the image of the girl on the Malecon, with the pretty face crossed by a tear, like a wound inflicted on her soul.
Yet, in Poesia Escondida there are, as in Palermo of Luciano’s early years, joy, fun, hope in the future. His photographs convey all these feelings, page after page, without a breath, giving a representation of Havana and the Cuban people, engaging, sincere and dreamy at the same time, as only a certain poetry can do.
For Joseph Brodsky “a man who reads poetry is less easily overcome than one that is not reading it”.
This applies to Cuba, and Luciano del Castillo.
About Luciano del Castillo
I was born in a city that was hot, hot in summer, hot in winter, sometimes with the rain coming in between. A city on an island where, according to Tomasi di Lampedusa, things had to change in order to stay the same. Generations of wizened faces, black eyes squinting under the Mediterranean sun, watched the changes, the city spreading into the surrounding hills, shiploads of olives and ripe oranges passing through the port, and blood staining the streets and arid land in ancient vendettas. They knew more than most that Palermo had baked in the heat far too long to be able to change fast.
When I first used to pound the streets of Palermo, as a reporter, I used to go down to the port and breath in the smells that had been there for centuries. I’d train my lens on the incoming boats and weather-worn fisherman and I could almost see the boatloads of Arabs, Greeks, Normans and Spanish that had arrived years before. They tried to steal the land and break the Sicilians, but in doing so, they created thick layers of a varied culture that stands alone in the Mediterranean in its richness.
My father’s ancestors were part of this richness, having come from the shores of Spain to the island. My motherÌs family, brought Austro-hungarian blood, blue eyes and an almost Nordic sense of independence, sensitivity, and organisation to the family. Looking back at my blood line, its easy to trace my almost paranoic sense of puntuality and hard-work back to my motherÌs family. My father’s ancestors, however, gave me my passion for life, for people and for the sometimes extreme and bizarre situations I put myself in during the course of my work.
Having learnt my trade, I left Palermo with my camera to see what the rest of Europe had to offer. What followed was eye-opening experiences in Germany and Sarajevo and numerous collaborations with newspapers, news agencies and television in various European capitals. I honed my craft taking every job possible, often finding myself running through airports with a role of film, desperate to get it on a flight so it could safely arrive at its destination. Those were the days before digital, things were slower, more difficult, but we learnt fast.
I’ve always covered news stories, an old-style journalist who is always on the streets of the world, making contacts and developing stories. I currently work with ANSA, the international Italian Press Agency, and I worked for various foreign press agencies. When I’ve got time, I like to work on books and photographic exibitions. When I can, (usually in the dead of night) I also like to write. And when the summer comes, I go back to heat of Palermo and the smells of the port, because I know with everything changing so fast, its the only thing that Ì’ll be the same.