Cuba Tips for Photography
Wander, Be Bold and Pay Up
The musician makes eye contact. On this cue his body shifts into a striking pose. Guitar strings are raised and fingers flexed. You know he has done this before, but not for you. His eyes are twinkling that universal message of commerce. You can take my picture for a fee. Caribbean harmony.
1. Wander off del Prado and the popular tourist squares of Viejo Havana. You will find anything going on in the side streets and mostly the unexpected. An impromptu dance session, a car under repair, a cigar smoking momma, a parade and more local color treasures. Architecture, cars, people. Mix and match as you desire or as they roll out on any street.
2. Change your perspective. Head to the rooftop or poke the lens into a mass of men street battling out a chess game. Separate yourself from the rest of the tourists roaming the plazas and promenades.
3. Pay up for portraits. It is the culture and many have gone before you so. Be prepared with small (US) dollar bills in amounts you know will be acceptable locally. Helping locally will have you feeling more connected to your travel destination.
4. Work the pose for your unique style. Travel is no reason to leave your creativity at home.
5. Be mindful of the sky. In the Caribbean it can change to a mother nature drama in minutes. Just make sure a hurricane is not brewing.
For more Cuba tips for photography, see also:
Havana, Cuba Wins
Hanging out in Havana, Cuba is getting easier every year.
Rustic, historic, charming and crumbling, Havana is a city of contrast. Take architecture, ranging from every era since Columbus landed over 500 years ago. Streets marching out European colonial, Art Deco and mid-Century modern, deteriorating gracefully as locals eke out a living in a world caught in the past. And then, there is transportation for every speed from horse pulled buggies to “American cars” and variations in between. Vestiges of the flight of owners who did not agree with leftist rhetoric of the mid century coup. And the people, except for the odd hustlers who usually take the first “no” as a definitive answer, Cubans are “mind your business” and “make do” kind of people.
And here lies the contrast. When Cubans have access to colour they apply it with a heavy brush…youth meandering down the Prado (a wide boulevard built in the late 18th C) in sexy, current, bright attire- chatting vigorously, they dress as well as they can. Where paint is desperately lacking in the architecture vivid colour is applied liberally in the recycled cars, the street costume/attire and the street art. And the rest have been making do as best they can. Cubans are the ultimate recyclers. Most travellers expect interesting sites, activities that miles of sandy beaches will satisfy, friendly people, good food (well, 3 out of four isn’t bad). Cuba offers what a lot of developing countries offer but they don’t have …, well, almost all, the cuisine is sketchy. Havana deserves more than a daytrip for those willing to slip down a few side streets, take in live Cuban music at the Café Paris.
The traveler to Havana has something to learn resourceful.
For more on Havana and Cuba, see also:
She Stands Alone In Sao Bento Train Station
The Power of One
The masses scuttle by. A single one whimpers to a halt.
Pondering, then mesmerized. Engrossed. Halting amidst the train station rush. Meditation battles helter and skelter. Calm fights confusion.
Why the hesitation? Embarkation or journey’s end? Burdened only with a purse and small bag she is not destined for a long trip. Should she board or retreat from Oporto station? On to her ticketed destination or home?
Her body language suggests a calm reluctance to venture forward.
At a crossroad with no immediate direction. Why the pause? She has time to gaze, reflect while the crowd hammers by in military formation. Organized haphazard marching. No one else is tempted to gaze at art and be late for their meeting.
A train station populated with haste and removal, absorbing nothing beyond one moment in time. All else delineated as before and after, early and late.
Lunging lurid locomotives. Panicky passengers. Agitated agents. Engrossed conductors. Whimpering children. Transportation chaos spews amid organized
Sao Bento Railway station, Oporto Main Terminal. A dead artisan’s lifework seeps into the meditative. A cavern of white and blue porcelain. Azulejos flickering in the daylight that has wandered into the station bowels. Artistic juice has been splayed on the walls, a two dimensional history lesson.
She scours the Portuguese porcelain walls, a frozen focus on blue and white. Glazed fragility commands and art from the past speaks. Artistic admiration invites a pensive mood to sideline her focus and invite a change in schedule. Old world murals become a history book standing vertical on the station walls. The record of Portugal in 20 thousand pictures, each one inspired by a Carlos, master of a long extinct kiln. The entire country in two dimensions lies before her. Crafted, creative, cultural icons of a colonial superpower. She hesitates in the light and shadow falling from the skylight, her limbs straddled between yin and yang. Hesitant in the blazing light, wavering in the foreboding darkness. Tracks lead everywhere from central yet she has been disabled, unable to move on without examination. And then, she moves on.
For more on Portugal, Oporto and on the Power of One, see also:
Pakistani Dress Elegance
Marina in Magenta and Burgundy
For Pakistani dress elegance, Marina models and describes some traditional and modern styles:
Magenta Shalwar Kameez
My mum had the Magenta Dress made a little over 25 years ago. My grandparents basically had a dozen or so fancy outfits made for my mum so that she would have some nice items to wear for special events and what not. This dress in particular is called a shalwar kameez The kameez was the long shirt that I was wearing with slits on either side. A shalwar is basically a pair of pants that goes with the kameez, I don’t know where the shalwar went for this outfit. The entire dress was hand embroidered with bead work on crinkled georgette. I wore leggings with the kameez because nowadays its okay to mix and match. Some girls in Pakistan wear leggings with fancy dresses. Leggings are similar to another type of traditional shalwar called churidar.
White Kameez with Burgundy Dupatta:
I bought the white kameez from a very popular Pakistani online boutique called Khaadi. This kameez is more traditional, less trendy, and often worn on a daily basis (less fancy- without the embroidery). The Dupatta (long scarf) is, in my opinion, the touch that makes the outfit. My mum had it made from the same designers/tailors that made the magenta shalwar kameez 25 years ago. She had a few others made in the same style to wear with plain shalwar kameez. It is completely hand embroidered! This type of embroidery is called Tilla. Tilla embroidery has a heavy Mughal influence and is done by using a fine needle and gold or silver thread. This dupatta was made using the Karchobi technique. Embroidery was considered a very high art form in the past. The Mughals were all about opulence and art; it still is, but sadly, machines have taken over much of the work of artisans. Here is a really good article on this topic:
The pants that I wore with this outfit are more of a western play on the traditional shalwar. They are more fitted and cropped like capris. The shoes are called khussa, brought last year from Pakistan. The pair that I have are not as fancy, I do have ones that are beaded. Khussa are traditional handmade leather slippers-also heavily influenced by the Mughal empire. More information/history can be found here:
For more on traditional costumes from around the world, see also: