Travel restrictions to Cuba have not deterred photographer David M. Spear from exploring the estranged country with his camera.
Being presented today at FRANK Gallery, Spear’s latest book “Ten Days in Havana” records his experience in Havana, the capital of Cuba.
Spear said he had to obtain a license from the U.S. Treasury Department to visit the country.
“Anytime you tell someone you can’t go somewhere, that’s the first place you want to go, right? So I was naturally curious about what was really going on in Cuba,” he said.
All the photographs are portraits of people who he met on the trip. Spear said he always gets to know his subjects before taking their photographs.
“The aim of the book is to go and find a good story. Stories are becoming short in supply because people spend too much time on their cell phones and not too much time talking back and forth to one another and telling stories,” he said.
“I was looking for a good story and good photographs.”
This is Spear’s second trip to Cuba. He said his first visit there left him determined to return and make a book about the place.
“Time stops in Cuba because of the embargo from 50 years ago,” he said. “Havana is full of people walking everywhere. Everybody stops and talks to one another — there was a lot of interaction going on between people.”
Spear said he was particularly struck by the Cubans’ openness and willingness to communicate with each other.
“In Cuba, everybody is very open. Conversation is very important to their culture, but in the United States, conversation has become texting and talking on the phone, not talking face-to-face,” he said.
“That’s the most memorable thing that I took away with me.”
Spear is a consigning artist with FRANK gallery and has been a photographer for 22 years. “Ten Days in Havana” will be his third published book. His previous book, “The Neugents,” documents a North Carolina family, and his experience visiting and living in Mexico is presented through another of his books, “Visible Spirits.”
“He’s pretty much a candid photographer who catches moments that are sometimes quite mysterious and suggest something very specific about the person he is photographing,” said John Rosenthal, a gallery member artist.
“He works very spontaneously, finds something that is surprising in a given situation, something that will catch his eye, and he’ll transform it into a photograph.”
Rosenthal is also a photographer and has known Spear for 10 years.
“Wherever he will go with his camera, it’s going to be an interesting experience,” Rosenthal said. “He’s the kind of photographer who has a spectacular eye for just the right detail.”
Spear’s ability to mingle with his subjects was also praised by FRANK’s gallery manager, Torey Mishoe.
“He has a real knack of getting in with people, so his published works are always very fascinating because of those glimpses into something that you wouldn’t otherwise see,” she said.
A wonderful project. It is time for all of us to have the freedom to travel on a general license for non-tourist purposes, just like Cuban Americans. Let the President know how you feel. http://petitions.moveon.org/si...
John McAuliff Fund for Reconciliation and Development