January Issue 2000
Cuban Photographs by Ernesto Bazan at Center for Documentary Studies in Durham, NC
"Cuba isn't just photography; Cuba is life-my life," says photographer Ernesto Bazan. Powerful testament to that fact is found in the first one-man show of his Cuban images to be shown in the United States, which continues through May 26 in the Juanita Kreps Gallery at the Center for Documentary Studies at Duke University in Durham, NC.
In his photographs of present-day Cuba-rocked by Soviet collapse, social change, and material hardship-Bazan portrays both the feeling of hopelessness and the dignity and inner strength of Cubans living through the island's historic transformation. Fidel Castro has dubbed it El Periodo Especial, The Special Period, and Bazan has documented its profound implications since 1992.
"Reality in Cuba is about extremes," says Bazan, who made his first trip to the island in Nov. 1992 and moved there in Dec. 1997 to marry and start a family. "The quality of life is raw, without mitigation in all its positive and negative aspects."
"My main concern when I take pictures there has always been to let the humanity of my subjects shine through, to show how the indomitable human spirit always prevails over the daily difficulties," Bazan says. "My images aren't about larger-than-life heroes. They are about real people, like you and I, waking up every day and facing life as best they can. Indeed, it's intriguing to see how a common thread emerges from such diverse material."
Among his other awards, Bazan received the W. Eugene Smith Grant in Humanistic Photography in 1998, the Dorothea Lange-Paul Taylor Prize from the Center for Documentary Studies in 1997, and a grant from the Mother Jones International Foundation for Photojournalism in 1995 for his work in Cuba.
El Periodo Especial is sponsored by the Center for Documentary Studies and the Duke-UNC Program in Latin American and Caribbean Studies. Funding is provided by the Mary Duke Biddle Foundation, the Trent Foundation, and the Lyndhurst Foundation.
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