I’ve been flying for 17 years now and, having racked up 10,000 flight hours, I’ve been round the world a lot. But there are still lots of places I haven’t been to. Cuba, for instance, has been high on my wish list for quite a while. I’ve been hoping to go there since Havana was added to the KLM network a year ago.
Close friends who celebrated their honeymoon in Cuba told me the place would drive me crazy. They said a photographer like myself would need weeks to recover from the colours, people, aging buildings and, of course, the classic cars. And they were absolutely right. I returned from Cuba a couple of weeks ago, but the experience is still etched on my retinas and on the memory card of my camera, of course!
On arrival in the city, I went out into the street as soon as I could, to get a sense of the atmosphere and splendour. Decaying glory, some say, but what glorious decay! The architecture, the faces, the warmth, the vintage cars, the music, restaurants, but also the busses donated by the Netherlands, bearing the names of Dutch towns.
The famous portrait of Ché Guevara you often see on t-shirts is painted on many walls throughout Havana, in wonderful variations. And just when I thought I’d seen all the cars and colours of the city, I ran into this modest man, wearing a blue overall and matching cap – a street sweeper, smoking a cigar. I asked him if he’d allow me to take his picture. This usually spoils the magic of the moment, but he took an easy pose and proudly let me take his picture. In that instant, I already knew this would be the photo that fully captured my Cuban experience.