he Male­con, af­ter mid­night. Hun­dreds of lovers on the wall, as if the night wasn’t steamy enough. Be­low them the sea, breath­ing slowly. Beyond them the nightlife of Ha­vana. Not Old Ha­vana, not those post­cards. The real city, two mil­lion strong, most of which are awake.

At Turf, Dj.Joy mak­ing the mu­sic. So much smoke that it fills the small spa­ces be­tween the fibers in your clothes. Drinks and cig­a­rettes. Con­nec­tions to be con­firmed later. Maybe 50 peo­ple out­side the club by the vel­vet rope, await­ing a nod to en­ter that may not come.

Avenida de los Pres­i­dentes, dense with teenagers. Small groups hang to­gether. Skate­board­ers rolling around mon­u­ments to revo­lu­tion­ary heroes. Girls with a look, flit­ting and flirt­ing. The cloth­ing of choice seems to be heavy metal black. Ev­ery­one finds their place, their cir­cles, their friends, and it is sur­pris­ingly quiet. Maybe 1000 kids by 3am.

One night. One square mile of Ha­vana Sur­prise to many in the world, and most in the United States: there is hap­pi­ness in Cuba. The US pol­icy is crush­ing, so­cial­ism is an empty closet and the coun­try seems held


to­gether by av­er­age fam­i­lies mas­ter­fully adept at jerry-rig­ging their day- to- day ex­is­tence. Re­ally, Cubans may be the most in­ge­nious peo­ple on the planet.

Yet, de­spite the neg­a­tive wire­ser­vice pho­to­graphs im­printed on the world’s brain, there’s a pretty good life here for many. To name a few: artists and di­rec­tors and ac­tors and mod­els and mu­si­cians. The cre­ative class.

Soon af­ter Fidel Cas­tro came to power in 1959 he sig­naled his in­tent to pro­mote Cuban cul­ture. Other de­crees pro­moted ed­u­ca­tion and medicine. To­day the cul­ture is rich and proud. Lit­er­acy is al­most un­equalled in the world. Med­i­cal knowl­edge and care are su­pe­rior. And the coun­try is broke.

Here, on an is­land of sur­vivors, there are those who sur­vive bet­ter than oth­ers. Some are em­bar­rassed about it. Oth­ers are afraid to draw at­ten­tion to it for fear the so­cial­ist gov­ern­ment will pun­ish them for hav­ing a good life. Here’s the t-shirt: Cuba. It’s com­pli­cated.

Yari, bangs and beau­ti­ful, part of the life. A mem­ber of sev­eral faran­du­las, small cir­cles of friends in­ter­sect­ing like Olympic rings. Each ring an in­ter­est: mu­sic, or fash­ion, or clubs or art. One faran­dula even alerts her to the party-of-the-night, the let­ters PMM chirped to her cell phone: Por Me­jor Mundo, For A Bet­ter World. With di­rec­tions.

Ac­tual money, she proves, is not al­ways nec­es­sary for the above-av­er­age life. But faran­du­las, that’s dif­fer­ent. So­cial con­nec­tion trumps pol­i­tics, sta­tus or wealth. A model dates a pho­tog­ra­pher who is friends with a mu­si­cian whose song is cho­sen by a di­rec­tor for a film with an ac­tor who ad­mires the work of an artist who uses the model for a model.

Here are the other pho­to­graphs, then, of the other faces of Cuba. They are in­ter­na­tional, yet travel is dif­fi­cult if not

im­pos­si­ble. They are fash­ion­able, though Cuban cou­ture is an oxy­moron and any­way there are no stores. They are so­cial­ists who would be lost with­out cap­i­tal­ism to sell their cre­ative wares in the world’s mar­kets. They are the priv­i­leged class in a class­less society. Their lIves are com­pli­cated. But that’s Cuba. “To be cul­tured is the only way of be­ing free.” Jose Marti

“This is a first world coun­try in third world cloth­ing.” Toby Brock­le­hurst

“Cuban women are Caribbean. We have heat in our blood.” Rachel Valdez

“Power in­flu­ences art in Cuba. Just like ev­ery­where else.” Pavel Giroud

“Not too much sur­prises Cubans be­cause we’ve had so many sur­prises.”


Cuba lies like a sleep­ing croc­o­dile in the warm sea. More im­por­tant than dan­ger­ous. Less asleep than you imag­ine.

A coun­try both in­di­vid­u­al­is­tic and tightly con­trolled. Stub­bornly in­con­ve­nient, but re­silient. An im­preg­nable self-con­cept, yet hum­ble. Over 11 mil­lion peo­ple live here. Many in crum­bling movie-set man­sions crammed with gen­er­a­tions. Peo­ple on the porch. Kids in the street. Chevy on the jack. Laun­dry on the line. Windows up - and oc­cu­pied. The power is off. The wa­ter is on. The power is on.

The wa­ter is off. Not so much as a shrug.

And at the top, a layer of hu­man­ity like warm air risen to the ceil­ing. These are the artists, writ­ers and oth­ers in the priv­i­leged class that have cars. Have pass­ports.

Have, great God, air-con­di­tion­ing. And you hear not one be­grudg­ing murmur.

They are the pride and flesh of Cuba’s cul­ture. It’s hu­man GDP. And some­thing else: an in­con­ve­nient re­minder to many in the United States that some­thing works in Cuba.

With brush and shut­ter and clay and chord they put their con­science on record. Their art is their vi­sion of the coun­try. Their lives a se­cret in full view.


Ha­bana Li­bre is a stun­ning con­tem­po­rary ex­plo­ration of the priv­i­leged class in a class­less society: a se­cret life within Cuba. Michael Dweck’s pho­to­graphs are ex­hil­a­rat­ing, sen­sual and provoca­tive, with a sexy and hyp­notic vis­ual rhythm.

This is a face of Cuba never be­fore pho­tographed, never re­ported in West­ern me­dia and never ac­knowl­edged openly within Cuba it­self. It is a so­cially con­nected world of glam­orous mod­els and keenly ob­ser­vant artists, film­mak­ers, mu­si­cians and writ­ers cap­tured in an elab­o­rate dance of sur­vival and suc­cess. Here too are sur­pris­ing in­ter­views with sons of Cas­tro and Gue­vara as well as many oth­ers who de­fine the cre­ative cul­ture of Cuba and

give it tex­ture and sub­stance. Ha­bana Li­bre is not a me­dia-fab­ri­cated Cuban post­card of crum­bling man­sions or old Amer­i­can cars, but a re­veal­ing and con­tem­po­rary work by an artist adept at cap­tur­ing the quiet gesture, the sen­su­ous eye and the proud and provoca­tive pose of that most ro­man­tic of con­tra­dic­tions: Cuba. “Ha­bana Li­bre is a story sug­gested, never told. Its sub­text is an al­le­gory of se­duc­tion, a ‘for­bid­den is­land’ that em­bod­ies a provoca­tive mix of dan­ger, ten­sion, author­ity and mys­tery; teem­ing with an in­tox­i­cat­ing air of sen­su­al­ity and a rhyth­mic, al­most hyp­notic un­der­cur­rent.” Michael Dweck


The limited edi­tion print­ing, hailed as “a sun­baked who’s who of Cuba’s cultural elite…” by The New York Times is Dweck’s per­sonal ex­plo­ration of Ha­vana’s hid­den cre­ative class. Also avail­able in a limited edi­tion (100) Art Edi­tion Box Set with a book and a sil­ver ge­latin pho­to­graph, both signed by Michael Dweck. The duo­tone il­lus­tra­tions are made with a spe­cial treat­ment for black and white images that pro­duces ex­quis­ite tonal range and den­sity. All color il­lus­tra­tions are col­orsep­a­rated and re­pro­duced in the finest tech­nique avail­able to­day, which pro­vides un­equalled in­ten­sity and color range.


Michael Dweck is an Amer­i­can pho­tog­ra­pher, film­maker and vis­ual artist. His work has been fea­tured in solo ex­hi­bi­tions around the world, and be­come part of im­por­tant in­ter­na­tional art col­lec­tions. No­table solo ex­hi­bi­tions in­clude Mon­tauk: The End, 2004, a par­a­disi­a­cal and erotic surf nar­ra­tive set on Long Is­land; Mer­maids, 2009, which ex­plored the fe­male nude re­fracted by river waters; and Ha­bana Li­bre, 2010; an in­ti­mate ex­plo­ration of priv­i­leged artists in so­cial­ist Cuba, which made him the first liv­ing Amer­i­can artist to have a solo ex­hi­bi­tion in Cuba. These and other works have also been pub­lished in large, limited-edi­tion vol­umes.

Pre­vi­ously, Dweck stud­ied fine arts at the Pratt In­sti­tute in Brook­lyn, New York and went on to be­come a highly re­garded Cre­ative Di­rec­tor, re­ceiv­ing more than 40 in­ter­na­tional awards, in­clud­ing the cov­eted Gold Lion at the Cannes In­ter­na­tional Fes­ti­val in France. Two of his long-form tele­vi­sion pieces are part of the per­ma­nent film col­lec­tion of The Mu­seum of Modern Art in New York. Michael Dweck cur­rently lives in New York City and Mon­tauk, N.Y., where he is fin­ish­ing his first fea­ture-length film.

Pho­to­graphic Print Sale In­quiries:

Please visit michaeld­ or con­tact one of our gal­leries around the world: michaeld­­tact. Visit: ditch­plain­s­ to pur­chase the book or call: 212-898-0136.

Pho­tog­ra­pher Michael Dweck whisks us away to Cuba

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