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.
ABOUT MICHAEL DWECK’S HABANA LIBRE
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
HABANA LIBRE LIMITED EDITION BOOK
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.
ABOUT MICHAEL DWECK
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 michaeldweck.com or contact one of our galleries around the world: michaeldweck.com/contact. Visit: ditchplainspress.com to purchase the book or call: 212-898-0136.
Photographer Michael Dweck whisks us away to Cuba