In her series ‘Cuba’, travel photographer Rosie Ubacher presents a poetic exploration of life in La Havana.
In an essay from 1973, while exploring the meaning of his travel photographs, Italian photographer Luigi Guirri wrote: “When I travel, I take two kinds of photographs: the typical ones that everyone takes […] and then the others, the ones I really care about, and the only ones I really consider ‘my own’.” With the term the others, Guirri was referring to pictures that depict ordinary experience. Or better said, to the things we are used to looking at passively. For him, to photograph scenes of everyday life meant to embark on a critical reading of one’s surroundings.
Rosie Ubacher’s series ‘Cuba’ reminded me of Guirri’s categorization. In 2009, Rosie borrowed a small DSRL camera from a friend and traveled to the last communist country in Latin America. Seven years later, she tells us: “I had no idea what I was doing, and obviously also no concept… I just took the photos I wanted to take. You can say that these photos are my “purest” in that it was nothing more than me and a camera and my natural instinct”. These were, in her own words, her “very first true photographs”.
With an outstanding eye for color and composition, Rosie states a clear opinion about a rapidly changing society. Cuba is picturesque, yes. Yet its vividness – Rosie will tell us– lies in the untheatrical elements of daily life. The distinctive simplicity of her snapshots constantly reminds us of that. Cool tones, sharp focus and an attention to geometric shapes have helped her build an image of Cuba that contrasts with the stereotyped, overly dramatic representations of Fidel Castro’s land.
‘Cuba’ is a series that tells us a story of the elsewhere, as every great piece of travel photography is supposed to. But it also tells us the story of a young travel photographer experimenting with the vernacular language of photography and the many possibilities it has to offer. The result is a quiet and sophisticated documentary style that makes a strong argument for the intrinsic beauty in the ordinary. In there, Rosie seems to have found her voice.
Rosie Ubacher is a Canadian self-taught travel and life-style photographer. She currently lives in Rio de Janeiro and Salzburg.
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