CUBA

CubaThe stories are true, Cuba is passion, heat, decay, music and vintage cars but so much more. After a regrettably short visit my mind and my mind’s eye are bursting with sounds and colours, people and sensations. I travelled with a small group of keen photographers in a coach over dusty pock-marked roads from Havana to CienFuego, to Trinidad and Santa Clara and finally back to Havana. My amigos also visited Vinales but a short interlude with the excellent Cuban health system prevented me from joining them. Frui runs holidays (with a photographic tutor) to Cuba and many other great destinations.

We flourished in the expert guidance of Giselle our Cuban chaperone and our driver Candito, who both went far beyond the call of duty to find us the perfect places and situations for our photographic purposes.

Cuba is not an easy country to understand, its history is complex and thrilling. Stuck as it is with the US trade embargo still in place, the Cubans are short of all sorts of modern and everyday products which are so familiar to us. Cuba is not short of welcome and rhythm. The salsa beat is with you day and night, sit down in a cafe and within moments a live band will be serenading you and musicians set up in the street in the most unlikely places. Tourism is Cuba ‘s money-maker, life there will change very quickly when the Castro dynasty ends, tourism will be the big draw for foreign entrepreneurs, who no doubt will suck away all the profits leaving the Cubans to make what they can with an infra-structure that has been starved of regeneration funds for more than 50 years.

Havana

Happy to be potographed for a small fee of 5 Cuban Pesos (c. 2p)
Happy to be photographed for a small fee of 5 Cuban Pesos (c. 2p)
There are not many new books to be had but there are good libraries and second-hand book stalls and shops abound.
There are not many new books to be had but there are good libraries and second-hand book stalls and shops abound.
Cuban life is lived on the streets, everyone has a chair or a box to sit on.
Cuban life is lived on the streets, everyone has a chair or a box to sit on.
Dusk
Dusk
Dawn
Dawn
1930's Bacardi building and vintage car
1930’s Bacardi building and vintage car
Spanish colonial style arcades provide welcome shelter from the sun as well as torrential rain. Tiny shops open at random selling hot drinks or cakes.
Spanish colonial style arcades provide welcome shelter from the sun as well as torrential rain. Tiny shops open at random selling hot drinks or cakes.
The heat and humidity slows you down, nothing is done in a rush, sit a while on a bench and enjoy the banter
The heat and humidity slows you down, nothing is done in a rush, sit a while on a bench and enjoy the banter
Education is free for everyone, school uniform included.
Education is free for everyone, school uniform included.
There is music playing everywhere, even outside this long-abandoned building supposedly being re-constructed.
There is music playing everywhere, even outside this long-abandoned building supposedly being re-constructed.

People

Blanket coat and a pastie
Great blanket coat and a pastie
Orange juice and a cigarette, putting the world to rights
Orange juice and a cigarette, putting the world to rights
Seen through a window, the scarf, the hand, the face in shadow, I wonder who he is.
Seen through a window, the scarf, the hand, the face in shadow, I wonder who he is.
The reddest hair and the blackest clothes
Vibrant orange hair and the blackest clothes
An engineer, deep in thought
An engineer, deep in thought

Downward gaze

Dazzling inside a mirrored lift
Dazzling inside a mirrored lift
The last supper
The last supper
The serving hatch
The serving hatch
The Bauhaus follower
The Bauhaus follower
Comtemplation
Comtemplation
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Serious and reflective with impeccable taste
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On the way home from the market – thinking about lunch
The Beret
The Beret
Really - I'm not sure I agree
Really – I’m not sure I agree
Where's my pint
Where’s my pint
Good-day to you sir!
Good-day to you sir!

Berlin – Architecture, Streets and People

Thomas - Expert Guide
Thomas – Expert Guide, joining the coach in Potsdamer Platz

One day in Berlin is not enough – of course! I was there to visit the Bauhaus Archives, the most comprehensive representation of information about the mid 20th C design school. I also enjoyed a 3 hour coach tour with a certain Thomas who was the most informed and amusing guide I have ever met. He skilfully took us around or past every historic point, every breath-taking piece of modern architecture with an encyclopaedic knowledge of everything Berlin has to offer the coach-bound traveller. Due to lack of time we could only leave the coach twice and for just a few moments, so many of  the photos are compromised by having been taken through the coach window as the coach was moving.

Jewish Museum - Daniel Libeskind
Jewish Museum – Daniel Libeskind’s radical, zigzag design

Just one photograph hardly does justice to this complex building, light and shadows dance across the angled facades and jagged chasms and take your breath away.  Daniel Libeskind

Berlin Hauptbahnhof - Meinhard von Gerkan

Berlin Hauptbahnhof – Meinhard von Gerkan

Meinhard von Gerkan The station looks particularly marvellous at night, streaks of light gliding through and out of the enormous glazed tube of a roof.

Topographie Des Terrors - Ursula Wilms (Heinle, Wischer and Partner) and the landscape architect Professor Heinz W. Hallmann
Topographie Des Terrors – Ursula Wilms (Heinle, Wischer and Partner) and the landscape architect Professor Heinz W. Hallmann

The external structure of steel rods or shafts catch the light and cast shadows giving the whole structure a nebulous appearance, quite the antithesis of the stern buildings that preceded it under the Third Reich. Ursula Wilm

The New Art Gallery - Mies Van de Rohe
The New Art Gallery – Mies Van de Rohe
Deutsches Technikmuseum - Helge Pitz and Hoh
Deutsches Technikmuseum – Helge Pitz and Hoh
IBA Housing - Zaha Hadid
IBA Housing – Zaha Hadid
Berlin Shell Haus – 1932 – designed by German architect Emil Fahrenkamp. Noted for its striking wave-like façade, and for being one of the first steel-framed high-rise buildings in Berlin.

Lots more building projects underway.
Judging by the number of cranes on the skyline, there are many more building projects underway.
bicycle and shed
Bicycle, tarpaulin and timber shed
Fluorescent jacket
Fluorescent Jacket

At first sight this appears to be a man with no head! Actually he is bending his scarf-covered head forward sharply in order to better read his phone.

Daimler Chrysler  - Rogers Stirk Harbour + Partners
Steps at Daimler Chrysler – Rogers Stirk Harbour + Partners

I was too close to be able to capture much of the facade but I love the steps. Rogers Stirk Harbour + Partners

Brandenburg Gate
Brandenburg Gate

CyclistCyclist

Christmas Lights
Christmas Lights – including the expert installer
Berliners 2
Two smart Berliners going about their business
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Berlin woman
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Hemispherical concrete bollards – what a lovely curve
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Replica of Checkpoint Charlie, complete with actor/soldiers – watched over by Albert Einstein
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An ingenious and space-saving bicycle rack, German bikes seem to be characterised by a curved crossbar making them look very decorative in pairs.
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The Colour Pillar in the garden of  the Bauhaus Archive – Walter Gropius

Bauhaus Archive

Perched

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On the day Prince George was born crowds of people waited outside Buckingham Palace for news. These two young men seemed a little out of place but they looked so good perched on the narrow ledge of the Victoria Memorial like a couple of large pigeons with immaculate white shoes.

A Woman in Contemplation

On the upper level of the Hagia Sophia in Istanbul you can look out through windows, guarded by a fine mesh to keep out the birds, towards a gilded spire. It is pretty dark inside with inky shadows set against the intensely blue sky outside. Photographically it was a challenge to get the balance of light right so that one can see into the shadows without losing sight of the spire.

I took many photos on different settings trying to replicate what I could actually see by just looking at the scene. Whilst peering through the tiny viewfinder, I was not fully aware of the figure who had stopped in front of me, I didn’t see her properly until I reviewed the photos later on a computer. She appears to be a serene figure in contemplation of this great spiritual place, head bowed as though in prayer, the sun lighting up  the top of her red scarf and her right hand. The scene has something of the Caravaggio Chiaroscuro style of painting about it.Hagia Sophia dark

I liked the image so much I began to adjust it slightly for exposure and began to see a very different scenario developing from the shadows. The atmosphere and mood changes utterly once the shadows are lightened, only then you can see the Smurf toy attached to the woman’s backpack. It changes from a study of spiritual contemplation into  just another one of the thousands of mildly curious tourists who pass through the Hagia Sophia every day, perhaps just stepping back off a bench and looking down for her foothold, after trying to peer out of the window. Nothing is as it first seemed.Hagia Sophia