Photographing Cuba: Part Two / by Soy Cuba

Brett Robert,  Las Escalaras/The Stairs.  2018, digital photography.

Brett Robert, Las Escalaras/The Stairs. 2018, digital photography.

by Brett Robert

This shot features two Cuban icons: the University of Havana steps and a classic 1950s American car serving as a taxi—according to my friends, this is most likely a 1952 Ford, or maybe a 1954, or is it a ’53? The steps figure prominently in the film Soy Cuba that gives this exhibition its title, a film I have spent a year watching over and over. Fortunately, it’s a fantastic film that holds up to multiple viewings. The idea of seeing this place in person lit up my imagination before we left when I was told we were staying within walking distance. I took 29 pictures of this building, the main front entrance, in two different sessions on this day. Most of the pictures were taken either behind the columns up top or on the steps when we passed it in the morning on the way to a meeting with Roger at his studio. Afterwards, walking back with a small group of three of my colleagues I demanded we stop here because I had dreamt of shooting it for months. We took a few killer selfies on my phone, then I set up shop.

One of the best photography tips I can give anyone is to learn to wait. Shots like this where no pedestrians are visible on the steps and only one stylish car is in view don’t happen because there was no one passing by that day. This shot happened because my friends were kind enough to wait with me for several cycles of the stoplight until no cars were coming and the one or two people on the steps had passed out of frame. I snapped a couple shots with no cars in frame, then I saw this car coming and I snapped two as it turned right in front of us on the corner. I liked the shot of it exiting the frame more, and after a couple rounds of editing I liked it enough to order a print to hang in my kitchen. It’s the same kit lens set at f 4 and 1/640th of a second. There was less light this day because the clouds you can see in the sky are the outside edges of Hurricane Michael which caused massive damage a few days later as it crossed Florida. We were fortunate enough that the light drizzle we experienced far from the eye was only an inconvenience that gave the city a different look and feel.