Cuba: 50 Years Under the Revolution ~ Through This Lens Gallery
Insights are gained as one views the Cuba Under the Revolution show at Through This Lens Gallery in Durham. In this exhibition photos taken by Tito Alvarez made in the early 60s are compared with those made by Pac McLaurin approximately 50 years later.
Pac McLaurin has spent almost a cumulative year in Cuba over the past 12 years. Avoiding hotels and staying in Casas Particulars (local homes approved to take boarders) has provided a very clear view of Cuban life. On his last student workshop, eight students from Appalachian State University accompanied him. In the first 24 hours these guys made 10,700 exposures and walked an average of just over 6 miles per person! This image of a lady with her basket selling peanuts is as typical street scene in this populous less affluent part of town.
Tito Alvarez, an award winning photographer who worked in the early 1960s until the mid 80s, took pictures of the people in his neighborhood—Gente de mi Barrio- basically people in their environment. This is a photo from that series:
There’s not a great deal of difference, both display what is going on economically for the people of their time.
Other times the photos are of broken buildings, poor people, and a sense of hopelessness, but they became a thing of photographic beauty when the light is right and the scene has composed itself and all you have to do is see! That was the case in this photograph made by McLaurin in Baracoa a small fishing village on the edge of Havana.
Pac McLaurin comments: “Cuba has a long way to go to become a tourist haven, those who think otherwise might carry some extra soap and toilet tissue!”
The opening reception for this show is held Friday, August 21, 2015 from 6-9 PM and will be on display through September 13, 2015. The gallery is located at 303 E. Chapel Hill Street in Durham, NC.
See the gallery’s website for more information.
Shooting the Image — With Motion or Not by Pac McLaurin
The statement “If it doesn’t move, it’s dead,” was actually made by Bryan Storm at the Mediastorm workshop in Charlottesville, Virginia in 2011. And earlier than that in 2007 an article written at the site PopPhoto noted that the question Is photography dead ? was not new.
Today I was reading another perspective on the issue — Stephen King’s On Writing: 10th Anniversary Edition: A Memoir of the Craft. He mentions that his family got their first television in 1958. King points out that he is the last wave of writers who spent their time forming ideas from thinking and reading, and not watching whatever is served up on the tube.
Reading this started me thinking about television, movies, and photography. I realized that I had been present for most of the dramatic growth of the visual age if there is such a thing. Most photography schools are teaching video courses along side photography courses these days. Their goal is to “prepare the students to enter the industry.” Most of the photography magazines are gone, replaced by either television or pulp celebrity magazines. The industry has become commercial studio work or editorial work making photos that persuade people to do something (buy or give). Many documentary projects are now video productions and we get them from cable TV or stream them from various Internet sites where most documentary workers hope to publish their work. The value of all this image making and video making to our lives remains an elusive target. It seems clear though that photography schools are more media than pure photography these days. Is this a good trend?
Two years ago attending the conference, LOOK 3, in Charlottesville, VA; I took a one-day seminar with Bryan Storm of Mediastorm. We spent the day dissecting one section of Danny Frazier’s Driftless: Stories from Iowa. The book published by The Center for Documentary Studies in Durham had won the Honickman prize. Frazier later got together with the folks at Mediastorm to put more life into this project. This ended with a wonderful mix of still photos, video, and audio that is a spellbinding story. Clearly this was a project made better by the synergism that can exist when still photos, video, and audio are mixed.
Today, I Googled “visual age” and one of the top sites was an advertisement for a program teaching how to better preach in this visual age. How to incorporate imagery into sermons, use media to accomplish the mission of the church, and so on was all over this site. I started this article with the mindset that still photography was dead or dying, hardly a new idea. The results of the Internet search seemed to support that thought. But I soon realized in conversation with a very helpful friend that when you see things like Driftless: Stories from Iowa and other more recent projects — many on the site Facing Change/Documenting America — it is clear that photography is alive and well; it just has some new and good friends.
Pac McClaurin Defines Documenting Place
The concept of a sense of place is very much in vogue these days. I started thinking about this nine years ago when I made a small souvenir photo book for participants in a church sponsored student work camp in Avery and Watauga counties. My task was to document the three weeks of camp and the sites each group of students improved by their labors. I made the books for the leaders. Driving about all over these two mountain counties making photographs gave me a much clearer understanding of the place in which I lived. Being relatively new in the region, this gave me a more deeply felt “sense of place.”
Joel Meyerowitz wrote in his book Creating A Sense of Place, “What exactly is a Sense of Place?” To me, a sense of place means not just what a place actually looks like, but rather, how it feels, what it represents or once represented, and what it might mean to us.
Making images that capture a Sense of Place usually involves expressing symbolic ideas central to the meaning of the place, instead of just descriptively recording its appearance. No single image can usually do this job by itself. To offer a true sense of place, we need to present a number of expressive images about that place, grouping them together as a photographic essay, a picture story, or a series of sequential images. Hopefully, when we have absorbed the meaning of them all, we will feel as if we can grasp the nature of that place.”
Photography has a lot to give to understanding a place as more than a location or landscape. It takes hard work and experience to begin to make photos that dig into the humanistic aspect of the place so that the images reflect the Place. Three basic steps: walk, talk, and click.
Thomson notes: Pac McClaurin recently retired from his position as photography instructor at Appalachian State, and now lives in Chapel Hill. To see how he aptly addresses the circumstance of place, check out his blog which documents his travels to wonderful places, such as Cuba, Spain, and Italy.