Friday, September 4, 2009

Tree, Landscape, Car, East of Habana, Cuba

Every now and then we stop and make a landscape image, all three of us getting out of the car with our cameras and making comparative studies. After a long trip, such opportunities give us a chance to collaborate, to do so without disagreement and agitation.

Five days before, we started on this adventure thinking that three of us would drive, that people in different cities would guide us and that we would have places to stay. After perhaps fifteen minutes on the road, it became obvious that the only person to have driven among the three of us was me, that people in different cities were never contacted and that we would need to search for places to stay in each city, the least of my worries in the end.

As we near Havana, they ask me to teach them how to drive. We are now on the nicer part of the freeway and it seems possible to do so. There are few cars around and the weather is beautiful. Each one of them gets into the driver's seat with the biggest smile ever, their knuckles white from grasping the steering wheel. A few words are exchanged about manual shifting and we move along.

Surprisingly, they both learn shifting quite well and move along to the highest gear without much effort. It is at this stage that my mind begins to worry. They both seem to believe that driving faster is a good idea, without knowing much about how to come to a stop. Surprisingly again, they both do without much effort. A few times, my hand moves the gear into neutral without the aid of the clutch, to help them stop while keeping the car running.

Seeing the joy on their faces reminds me of our frivolous disagreements, shows me the importance of our friendships and helps me realize that, while photography is an integral part of my life, it is these friends that make my life happiest. These are my Cuban brothers and this experience has shown me the value of a person versus the value of a portrait.

So we step out of the car with what we have in common, our cameras and our desire to make this portrait. We photograph in black and white, in color, with different cameras, exchange cameras and look forward to a day when we can compare prints. They will need chemicals, paper and so forth, hopefully with me on my next visit.