2015-12-02 After fifty years of Fidel Castro, invincible vintage American cars (maquinas), much reviled ration books (libreta), and the forsaken acres of glorious architecture decaying dejectedly in the sultry tropical air, Cuba is in the process of renaissance.
Like it or not, America is coming to town.
Professional photographers love this island, the biggest in the Caribbean. They come for the colour, the light, the people and the fashionable faded elegance of the place.
But now, armed with a Hasselblad H5D-50c and a wealth of previous shooting experience on Cuba, internationally-acclaimed German photographer Martin Hausler is in the middle of his very own Cuban revolution.
He’s putting together a new coffee table photobook book (yet to be given a title) based almost exclusively on the best part of a month’s shooting – with up to fifteen crew members on set each day – and uniquely backed up with a webisode (reality TV-style ‘behind the scenes’ story) of how it was all achieved.
For Martin this is an embrace of the Cuban zeitgeist; a snapshot in time – but not, he says, ‘the same snapshot that everyone else does.’
In an interview he tells Hasselblad: “Over the years I have accumulated a library of Cuba pictures that have my hard drives bursting at the seams. Of course I have all the stuff that everyone photographs there; cars, people on the street, buildings – but this is an island bristling with young talent and beautiful women.
For this book I wanted to capture the amazing new ‘creative cool’ that’s there in abundance now…but give it a real edge. It’s a different approach to an artistic coffee table book. I have tried to introduce a glimpse of the American world – the way I do shoots when I am working in the US. For example, I created a Cuban ‘super-hero’ girl but she’s not photographed in a beautiful old mansion, she is in a very dangerous, abandoned skyscraper in Havana – teetering on the edge of the roof!”
Another shoot was located in a dingy Havana flat that Martin rented from an octogenarian Cuban lady.
The photo-book sessions extended to rat-infested farm buildings and old, disused cinema locations – and included a park outside Havana where Martin and the crew found themselves stepping over the corpses of scores of slain chickens. And beaches too – where locals practising voodoo would ceremoniously sever chickens’ heads just a few feet from their set.
How Martin and Hasselblad captured Cuba:
Martin started his career in video and then ‘switched sides’ to photography (the norm would be the other way round) and it is his comprehensive knowledge of film set lighting that he employs on his Cuba 2015 photo-shoots.
He says: “I own my own H5D and associated lenses – and Hasselblad loaned me a new H5D-50c – which allowed us to save a great deal of time on some locations. I have worked with Hasselblad medium format for eight years now and it is a capture system that suits my shooting style perfectly. The key reason I demand highest resolution is the ability it gives me to crop. The main things are the look; the depth of field; the crispness.
The outcome, particularly when I am shooting for a book like this, or an exhibition, is truly stunning and I never want to lose that look and that quality.”
Watch out for a full feature on Martin’s Cuban revolution when his book launches next year.
The Hasselblad H5D-50c is currently available for a special offer for a limited period.