Cuba's digital destination
Review of Imagine Cuba (1999-2007)
By Rick Kogan
I first met photographer Sandro Miller when I arrived at his North Side studio in the company of great baseball player Bill ‘Moose’ Skowron. This was in the spring of 2000, and Moose was uneasy on the ride from his home, telling me he had never sat for a formal portrait before and wondering what sort of person would be ‘taking my picture.’ He had worn, on the advice of his wife, a conservative outfit: white shirt, tie, sport coat.
The meeting and the photo session started awkwardly, but eventually Miller won Moose over, and the ballplayer allowed Miller and his assistants to apply some makeup, got him to change into a black turtleneck sweater and to pose in various ways (including biting down on a baseball) that made for some of the most striking images to ever appear in the Tribune magazine.
I have kept tabs on Miller’s successful commercial career since then and am delighted to tell you that he has recently published a magnificent book, ‘imagine Cuba, 1999-2007.’ It was sports that first took Miller to Cuba, boxing specifically, and in his later visits he has taken photos of many boxers, allowed rare access by the government. There are some boxers on the 160 pages of this book and there are other athletes too, like wrestlers, volleyball players, swimmers. There are some baseball players, their names (Conrado Marrero Ramos or Luis Giraldo Casanova, known as ‘Mr. Hitter’) unknown to all but the most knowledgeable fans of international competitions.
But more interesting and compelling to me are the shots of less acclaimed or handsome folks, those he calls ‘the people of Cuba on the streets… Cuba’s streets filled a void in my soul, a void that felt empty with loss,’ he writes in the book’s introduction. That void was caused by the auto accident death of his father when he was a teenager. Photography has been his salvation.
To stare at the photos on pages 40 and 41 of the book, for instance — an elderly woman lying in bed and an old man covering his face with hands that show the ravages of a life of hard work — is to palpably feel the dignity and humanity in so-called ordinary people.
Even after all these years in the company of Osgood and many other great newspaper photographers, I remain blissfully ignorant of their art. Matters such as lighting and composition are foreign to me. But the results so often amaze me.
In this book, I am transported to the island and meet its people, the strong and the weak, and come to appreciate, if not understand technically, what Miller calls the ‘amazing light to shoot in — a light that was spiritual in quality, a light that would change every time I turned a corner.’
It is really a wonder to behold.
First published August 16, 2009 in the Chicago Tribune http://articles.chicagotribune.com/2009-08-16/features/0908130587_1_cuba-light-bill-moose-skowron
About Imagine Cuba (1999-2007) Hardcover: 160 pages
Publisher: Charta (February 1, 2009)
Product Dimensions: 11.6 x 0.8 x 9.4 inches
Author: Ignacio Gutierrez
‘The people of Cuba provided me with faces that told a million stories—stories of war, of love, of heartache and pain, of hard work and determination—faces beaten up by the sun and the heat, but most of all faces that still had pride running deep within the pores of their skin.’
Sandro Miller About Sandro Miller Internationally known photographer Sandro has been photographing people for over thirty years. He became interested in photography at age of sixteen upon seeing the work of Irving Penn and has been devoted his life to creating expressive images.
With numerous award-winning campaigns to his credit, Sandro is one of today’s foremost photographers. He has photographed many national advertising campaigns for a long list of clients. In 2001 Sandro was invited by the Cuban government to photograph that country’s greatest national treasure – its athletes. The project was the first US/Cuban collaboration since the trade embargo was imposed in 1960. Sandro’s photographic essay documented the sports heroes of this small country; a country that produced 45 coaches who worked with athletes from a variety of nations at the Sydney Olympics; a country that garnered 29 medals there and placed 8th in the world in total medals one. Sandro’s photos illuminate these dedicated athletes who, until now, have been virtually anonymous and who have offered stellar performances without the prospect of financial compensation, lucrative sponsorships or lasting glory.
Throughout Sandro’s career, he has contributed his talents to both community based and national charitable organizations by creating powerful imagery and compelling campaigns soliciting contributions for such organizations as the Food Depository of Chicago, Big Brothers and Big Sisters of Millaulee, Evans Life Foundation, Arts for Life, Dance for Life, AIDS Chicago, AIDS New Jersey and The Good City.
For more information about Sandro see: http://www.sandrofilm.com/ About Ignacio Gutierrez As a freelance writer, I’ve contributed written various articles for Metro, the world’s largest global newspaper, as well as AMNY, another NYC daily paper. I’ve also been a contributing editor for radio and talk show host Glenn Beck’s Fusion magazine, and I frequently contribute articles for Serf City, a newspaper dedicated to Libertarian politics.
I’ve recently contributed the introduction for “Imagine Cuba through my eyes”, a photography book on Cuba’s Olympic athletes and life in Havana by critically acclaimed photographer Sandro Miller. I’ve also created and written television pilots and episodes for an animated series titled “Pinky and his rock band tour around the world” which was briefly owned by USA Broadcasting and subsequently purchased by FX Networks, a subsidiary of FOX.
I currently reside in New York City. Most of my published articles and personal essays can be found on my blog at www.theliberalconservative.com January 2013