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May 18 - 25, 2002 - Havana, Cuba - I went with my wife Elizabeth to Cuba to attend the opening of a photo exhibition titled "The Revolution of Rock & Roll". The show was at the Fototeca De Cuba Gallery and was organized by Chris Murray of the Govinda Gallery in Washington, DC. We had a great time in Cuba, the opening was a good party and I gave a slide talk at the gallery on Rock & Roll photography. I've been invited to come back in December to show my photos of John Lennon, who is well known and very respected in Cuba.

 

 

The John Lennon sculpture in Havana is impressive. It was made by Cuban Artist Josť Villa.  Fidel Castro and Ricardo Alarcon, President of the Cuban Parliament were part of the unveiling ceremony held in December 2000. "This place will always be a testimonial to struggle, a summoning to humanism. It will also be a permanent homage to a generation that wanted to transform the world, and to the rebellious spirit, innovative, of the artist who helped forge that generation and at the same time is one of its most authentic symbols", said Alarcon at the ceremony

 

The sculpture is so natural looking and is in such a normal, peaceful neighborhood park that it feels very comfortable to sit and have a chat with the spirit of John Lennon. People come from all over Cuba, and all over the world, to visit with John and have a photo taken there. As you can see above, I couldn't resist the urge to sit down with him. It was very strange to see a bronze image of my friend, but also strangely very moving.

 

Havana is a beautiful, if somewhat decaying, city on the ocean. Many of the buildings are large Spanish style places with cool leafy courtyards, but they haven't been painted in years.

 

As you can see in this shot, some buildings are restored and very elegant, while others are just empty shells awaiting renovation.

Some of the buildings are held up by braces, and there are lots of old '50's cars on the streets.

 

Baseball is very popular in Cuba, and you see people tossing a ball around everywhere. Check out the Edsel stationwagon in this shot. This car was rare in the US even when it first came out.

This typical street scene shows the bicycle/taxi that is so popular and common in Havana. It's a nice quiet way to get around and the drivers are friendly and seem to enjoy the job.
We went to the Partagas cigar factory where I watched the woman above roll cigars. I just recently learned that my grandmother had this job in New York in the early 1900's so it was especially interesting to see how it is done.
 

  Chris Murray and Elizabeth in the Plaza Vieja. The Fototeca De Cuba Gallery is the blue building behind them. Also on the square are an elementary school, (the kids play in the square every day) and another art gallery and a cafe.

 

  We stopped in to meet the folks who run the gallery. Elizabeth took this photo as Chris introduced me to gallery assistant Emilio, Fototeca De Cuba director Lordes Socarras and the manager Nelson R. De Arellano.

 

 

Chris Murray had some photo collectors joining him in Havana and we planned a drive out to the countryside. Above you see Chris with Gaynor Bourgeois, Christine Nassikas, Chris' assistant Carol Huh, Elizabeth and me and Joey Filosa.

We rented this big old Oldsmobile and took off on a beautiful day for a look at the country.

 

 

 

The first stop was at a botanical gardens where they also do research on the growing of orchids. It was a very nice place and we got fresh coconuts with rum after the visit.

Then we went for a long walk into the woods to see this waterfall. I just had to jump in.

 

The only problem was that it started to rain on the way back, and the car had no top or windshield wipers. We made the best of it with large garbage bags.

 

The crowd arrives for the opening and starts to come in. We had a large turnout, and people seemed impressed with the exhibition. The show had more than 50 photos by 28 photographers, including Baron Wolman, Anton Corbijn, Astrid Kirchherr, Mark Seliger, Mick Rock, Claude Gassian and Gered Mankowitz,and many others

 

 This is a bit blurry, but you get the idea of the people checking out the exhibition. The photos showed Rock & Roll from Elvis to Tupac Shakur. There were some great early Bob Dylan shots by Daniel Kramer and Bob Marley by Kate Simon. My photos of John Lennon in his NYCity shirt and the Ramones in front of CBGB were included in the show

 

 

Author of several books on the Beatles, Ernesto Juan Castellanos, was at the opening with the very popular Radio Progresso host Guillermo Vilar. Ernesto's wife is next to Guillermo and between her and me is British photographer Jill Furmanovsky who also came to see her shots in the exhibit. Jill and I appeared on Guillermo's show, and I played the Clash & the Ramones for the first time ever in Cuba!

 

Nelson and his wife Lieudmilla showed some of their photos on the ground floor of the gallery. They have a series of images created with photos of the Revolution Monument in Havana with other scenes superimposed on them. Nelson said they work so well together that sometimes they don't know who took which photo.

Elizabeth and I say hi at the opening to Abel de la Soto and his wife. Abel got in touch with me thru the officialramones.com website and showed us around Havana, and he and his wife took us to a fabulous dinner in a house that belonged to a Cuban president in the 1930's.

 

Chris had gone around town inviting everyone who looked like they would like a Rock & Roll party, and managed to invite most of the Rastas in Havana. They had a ball and were happy to pose for a photo with me.

 

 

 

On Friday I gave a slide talk at the gallery. The subject was Rock & Roll photography.  Nelson translated so well for me that I was able to get some laughs, so I know they understood me. The talk was about an hour long and then everyone stayed and asked questions for another 45 minutes. I enjoyed it very much.

After my talk we had a celebration drink of rum with the staff and friends of the gallery. The feeling of the people was very warm and friendly and I'm looking forward to going back to present an exhibition of my John Lennon photos in December.

 
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