Scenes from Cuba
by Carl Socolow ’77
October 1, 2012
Last spring, I accompanied a group of students and faculty on a Dickinson Mosaic in Cuba. As college photographer, I was photographing the group to illustrate the cultural and international experience that has become a hallmark of a Dickinson education. I had also been invited by Victor Casaus to exhibit a series of photographs that I had made in Mexico in 2006 as a Guggenheim Fellow. Casaus had participated in Dickinson’s 10th-annual Semana Poética last fall and is director of Central Pablo, an arts and culture organization in Havana.
I went to Cuba with a certain trepidation about how we might be received by the people of a country so geographically close to the United States yet so politically estranged. Yet everywhere we went we were welcomed with open arms. There was a genuine outpouring of hospitality and generosity—whether it was the grandmother who chatted about the African roots of Cuban religion as she watched her grandson scoot around the park, the baristas at a café who shared stories about their neighborhood or the inspired artists and creative staff at Centro Pablo.
These Cuban photos are—as those made in Mexico and elsewhere—a part of a personal body of work that I call “Scenes from Civic Life,” an ongoing series of visual essays. They are stories strung together from glimpses of everyday life, from things simply as they are. They are not intended to be sentimental portraits or documentation. Rather, they’re intended to be lyrical and poetic descriptions of a place and a time and its people.