3 days in Havana

Peter Brian Schafer grew up in northern California, and is now based in New York City. He shoots film (except for the Vignette app on his Android phone) in part because he abhors realism and the striving for perfection that he feels afflicts much of digital photography, but mainly because for him the process of shooting film is fun and full of surprises.

‘3 days in Havana’ is my documentation of everyday life in Havana, Cuba from this summer. I just walked around and saw things and shot, and met people and shot some more. I shoot medium format 6×6 and I like the square images, but I wanted to portray street scenes as they are, with distinct little pieces of life, so came upon the idea of putting them together in panoramas, like what some phone apps do. But instead of digitally smoothed stitching, I just overlapped the squares. They don’t align perfectly but I like that.

I’m an American, so I’m not really supposed to go to Cuba because of the American embargo – that relic of the Cold War. Cuba is unlike any place I’ve ever been, a very different kind of society, both by design and, I think, a result of the embargo. I felt that I landed in a different time, a mix of the past and some vision of the future, an alternate parallel world. Add to that the isolation from no internet, no phone service, and no way to get more money (because American bank cards and credit cards don’t work there), and I got a taste of the isolation Cubans live with each day.

I look forward to returning, and to the end of the embargo.

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