Sunday, December 19, 2010

Yo, 1960, photograph by Cuban Artist Raul Martinez

Yo - 1960? - Gelatin Print - ~41 x 29 inches - © Raul Martinez

When I visited Magnan Metz Gallery in New York City during the summer for the Raul Martinez exhibit, this was the photograph that grabbed my attention.  

The title "Yo" means "Me." The negative for this photograph is probably lost to time. I would think that in Cuba, archival temperature regulated storage exists for only the elite. If you could see this in its original size, you would hold his gaze and wonder.

When I hold his gaze, I am grateful to the U.S.A. that we call home and country now. When I hold his gaze, I see the history that has happened since the shutter snapped on the day Raul Martinez stopped this boy on what I assume was a Cuban street. Did any one know what was truly happening in Cuba after the Castro take over in 1959? Did any one predict all the years, damage, pain, exiles, prisoners, etc.? Just hold his gaze…makes me wonder…

The Cuba that belonged to my parents is a mythological place to me, almost as if full of unicorns and gryphons. Cuba is a real place where there is poverty and oppression. Cuba is an island lost and largely ignored. If Cuba had any thing the rest of the world wanted, history would be very different!

A recent article in the Miami Herald had a story about a man who was arrested because of "dangerousness," for simply walking with a tourist (who actually was his brother in law). After the arrest, the two men decided to walk a measured distance apart and not meet until reaching their destination. I also write this with a measured distance, because it is an exiles' fear our actions in the U.S may affect those living in Cuba. With respect to that fear, much of what I would like to write about "Yo" will remain off-line. 

What do you think about "Yo?" Does it strike you? Would you think of Cuba if you did not know the artist was Cuban? 

Angeline Marie of


JJ said...

Cuba has been a dream destination for me for years. I think of the movies and the photos of the pre-Castro years, when the Island was the jewel of the Caribbean. I think of Cuba often, and I am convinced I will visit someday. As a Hemingway fanatic, I must visit.

As for fear, my first book, To Hug an Angel, is a memoir about the adoption nightmare my wife and I encountered in an attempt to adopt a four year old little girl from Chile during the Pinochet years. We got caught up in his State of Seige and a one day trip to Santiago turned into a two and a half month nightmare trek through the Andes. When the memoir was published, they included a fiction disclaimer because I changed two names of Chilenos who helped us, for fear there would be reprisals against them. It pissed me off big time! However, since 150,000 Chilenos disappeared off the streets during that awful regime, it was a real threat. In any event, I can write all day on the subject, but I do understand your comments well.

Jason L. Eldridge said...

This is a powerful photograph and well composed. It does not appear as the typical "hey can I take your photograph?". It is a very good study in the rule of thirds as the subject is placed just perfectly in the frame. His eyes are turned to the camera but the rest of his body is facing the closest edge. This gives a feeling of uneasiness. The subject is messing around with his hands as well which may indicate that he was uncomfortable being photographed or that he was worried about something at the time the picture was taken.

This January I will be traveling to Cuba in order to do portrait work with the church our missions work supports. While there I hope to travel the back streets and rural areas of Cuba in the hope of photographing the true culture. If I can come away with a single image 1/2 as good as this one I will be well pleased. Thank you for posting this photograph.

Angeline-Marie said...

I will have to purchase your book along with some others in 2011. I also dislike censoring (because that is what it is!) my writing. WE are in a free country...but...we do not wish to spread pain.

I understand about writing all day on the subject. Mama cautioned me on writing what she and I discussed about this photo and other paintings Raul did. After holding this image for a few months, well, Cuba is still a communist dictatorship. Sigh.

Just be careful...we need to talk. =)

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