Revealing complexities both on and off the island, Cuba Is explored aspects of Cuba not easily accessed by foreigners, and sometimes not even by Cubans themselves. Born from indigenous, African and European roots, divergent politics and limitations in communication and commerce, the Cuba revealed in this exhibition went beyond the folklore and offered new insight into its current reality. Over 120 photos featured subjects ranging from defiant youth known as “frikis” to the hard-partying children of the 1%, the underground system of sharing digital content— “El paquete”—to Miami’s Chonga girls.
Cuba Is included archival images and work done on assignment by five featured photographers: Elliott Erwitt, Leysis Quesada, Raúl Cañibano, Tria Giovan and Michael Dweck.
An original documentary film—produced by the Annenberg Foundation—followed these photographers as they captured unseen images of life in Havana and beyond.
Complementing this rare, immersive look into Cuban life was “La Música Habana,” a virtual reality film produced by Here Be Dragons, which delved into Cuba’s dynamic music scene, allowing visitors to virtually stroll along the storied Malecón.
Work from Violet Isle: A Duet of Photographs from Cuba, by Alex Webb and Rebecca Norris Webb, was featured in an outdoor exhibit adjacent to the Photo Space. The photos brought together Alex’s exploration of the streets of Cuba along with Rebecca’s discovery of unique collections of animals throughout the island.
For the first time, we also presented a limited menu of specialties from legendary local Cuban mainstays Porto’s Bakery & Café and Café La Llave in the Doña Dulce café as an extension of the Cuba Is experience.
Additionally, Annenberg Space for Photography’s Skylight Studios presented RESOLVIENDO, an interactive installation that revealed the creative drive of the Cuban people.
The Cuba Is exhibit was part of Pacific Standard Time: LA/LA, a far-reaching and ambitious exploration of Latin American and Latino art in dialogue with Los Angeles. Pacific Standard Time was an initiative of the Getty. The presenting sponsor was Bank of America.
Stories Behind the Photographs
Chino was drunkenly stumbling in the street at the end of one of his usual long nights out with friends and felt the urge to rest on a chair placed outside someone’s door.
Michael Christopher BrownView profile
Aware of Celia Cruz’s deep yearning for Cuba, Rodríguez and Torres recreated a Cuban landscape among the royal palm trees at the Fairchild Tropical Garden in Coral Gables, Florida.
Alexis Rodríguez-Duarte & Tico TorresView profile
This outdoor terrace of a residential building becomes a neighborhood beauty salon despite government restrictions on privately owned businesses and severe shortages throughout the 1990s.
Tria GiovanView profile
Victorino Rodríguez, one of the most famous crocodile hunters in the area, is the star of the town. He poses for the camera, carrying a crocodile on his shoulder like a designer bag.
Raúl CañibanoView profile
Ashenal—whose real name is Gilberto—is described by González as a stylish, handsome, slender twenty-one-year old experiencing the challenges of the gender reassignment process.
Claudia GonzàlezView profile