Puedo . . . ?

One week in Cuba leaves me weak in the knees, having fallen raucously in love for this country with a fervor so immediate and overwhelming, I don’t even remember the precise moment it happened, or if I could have stopped it. One moment I was standing dry, and the next, a tsunami of love–and I mean love, the real kind of love–had engulfed me from out of sight, without warning. Bodies can’t resist tsunamis.

So here I am, back in San Francisco, sun-kissed and covered in bruises and bug bites, with just a handful of portraits to remind me of the many, many more local Cubans who welcomed me into

their homes,

to share their kitchens and back rooms,

their walks down the Malecón,

their newspapers,

their stone steps,

their milkshakes,

and dancing bodies,

their lips,

their Mickey Mouse stuffed animals,

their phone numbers,

their pride in their country,

their selfies,

a puff of their cigars,

a ride on the back of their scooters,

their sunsets,

their fatigue,

their breakfast,

their peanuts for the road,

their concern for my safety at great heights,

their hands as we chanted “si se puede” climbing endless stairs,

their earbuds for a taste,

a harmony of Michael Jackson’s “Will You Be There”,

their names and their stories,

their sweet smiles and patience with my halting Spanish,

their funerals,

their sweat,

their directions,

their directions,

their directions,

and then the rest of their days.

I’m not even kidding.

Enter the photo gallery to get more details on the few who are represented in this collection of street photography.

A NOTE ON STREET PHOTOGRAPHY:

Never, ever take a photo without permission. And don’t you dare walk down the street with your camera in hand looking for exciting people who are different than you to take pictures of. Never interrupt people who are busy making their living. Be kind to people, and receive kindness. Show them the shots after you take them. Welcome them into the artistic process. Take pictures with them, not at them.

Every one of these pictures was taken after the subject(s) and I had already had organic, meaningful interaction that was either initiated or welcomed by them. I asked before ever lifting my camera, “Puedo . . . ?” I deleted pictures that people were not comfortable with, or that they wanted compensation for. The photo is not the thing–it’s part of the greater local engagement which is actually the worthwhile thing here.

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