Photography can only represent the present. Once photographed, the subject becomes part of the past. Berenice Abbott
Over the past 80 years, Havana has drawn important photographers who explored this vibrant city through their distinct visions. In the 1930s, Walker Evans captured the graphic quality of men and women against white buildings plastered with advertisements. Henri Cartier-Bresson found the political “decisive moment” in his 1963 photographs of Fidel Castro and Che Guevara interacting with the people of Cuba. Abbot’s quotation speaks to the work of these photographers, who caught their subjects at a significant moment in time.
In December 2014, as cold-war hostilities isolating Cuba were poised to come to a historic end, David Katzenstein photographed Havana's sounds, colors, and energy. Unlike Evans’ and Cartier-Bresson’s black and white images, Katzenstein has found a musical quality using compositions of raw colors in a wide variety of subjects. From these photographs, we feel the powerful rhythms that people create while interacting on the Malecón, as colorful, bulbous cars race through the city, mirrored by curio shop objects, juxtaposed like musical notes that quietly echo their revolutionary past. Today the photographs of the dancers and musicians pulsate with the timeless energy of the Cuban tradition. Through his work, we see the present becoming the past in a new light.
Katzenstein captures the brilliant reds, distinctive blues and glittering greens that jump off the cars and objects that surround the people on the streets of Havana. These colors create a lyrical pattern in which the eye hears the sounds of the city’s soul: a sensuous, sweaty, fading song along the ocean.
Text and Curation by Richard Grosbard