One of the most visible aspects of Havana is the collection of old American cars that roam the streets, primarily as taxis. Today we went for a ride.
We fell into a sort-of routine starting today: breakfast at the hotel buffet, photography in the street, class, lunch, more photography, dinner and more photography.
The daily class on this workshop has a regular routine. Steve talks for a bit, trying to give us eager students some insight into an aspect of street photography we might not otherwise have. This included examples of work, discussion of how well-known and successful photographers worked, and sometimes technical details. The technical stuff generally was the least of it; most of the attendees are competent camera operators. But as I wrote earlier, I learned from this segment.
The bulk of each class, and by far the most interesting, was the review of each participant’s work from the prior day. This being the first day, we each were asked to submit some of our prior work for review. The review went like this: Each of us would give Steve a USB stick with 5, 10 or even 20 images. He would create a slide show for each, and project it on the screen for all to see. He would then critique each image, pointing out what he liked, what he thought didn’t work, and how an image might be improved if appropriate. He would solicit comments from the entire class. Not surprisingly, the comments from the audience were a bit tentative at first, but became more definitive as the week progressed and we got to know each other better.
I found these critiques – both from Steve and my classmates – extremely useful. I didn’t always agree with their perspective, but I always tried to understand it.
The focus of the day was a ride in three colorful old American convertibles. Seen from afar, these convertibles gleam in the sun and seem like carefully preserved historical artifacts. Up close, however, they are wrecks. Most of the convertibles are chop jobs that started life as sedans or hardtops and have had a very rough conversion. The springs and shocks are worn, the doors creak, there are (of course) no seat belts, the engines roar through muffler-free exhaust systems.
Speaking of exhaust, the air in the center of the city – where we were – is awful. Between the belching cars, buses and trucks, and all the other sources of pollution that are present, the air is bad. Adding to the pollution is a refinery across the harbor that is constantly burning off waste with a big flame atop the smokestack, visible for miles.
We got to ride in nice shiny convertibles. Most of the cars in Havana are not topless; many are not shiny. In fact, quite a number are visible wrecks. Even the ones that are running and in use look like there’s not a lot of metal left in the body; they appear to be made of putty. And they are not a rare sight – these ancient artifacts are everywhere.
I’ve included a sampling of the cars I saw here.
During our ride around town in the convertibles, we stopped to take a quick look at a statue of a most surprising historical figure. I don’t really have a good handle on why he was memorialized here. I was impressed with the fact that this poor country pays a woman to stand around and put spectacles on his face whenever tourists show up.