Ever since I can remember, I dreamed of an island the way one does of a parent never met or a sibling long lost. I thank my grandparents every day for their insight, as well as all of the Cuban poets and musicians. All of the artists who have bestowed upon me their memories so vivid of a time and place unparalleled, passed down story after story, directly into my heart. Cuba, this motherland of unknown dreams and broken promises, called to me - yet I hesitated to respond as I could not forget all the pain-filled years endured by my family and by all Cuban-Americans; the exiles who courageously sacrificed their homes for freedom and for that of their children. Until one day when the call became a cry, developing an internal yearning that I could no longer deny, and so I went. And my life has not been the same since.
Without losing sight of the political and economic struggles that affect the lives of all Cubans, I set out to create images that resonated the beauty and realities of my culture, as well as its many illusions. All of the photographs seen here were made prior to the embargo lift imposed by the Obama administration.
In the summer of 2012, three days after my college graduation, I embarked on a trip I would never forget. I purchased a round-trip ticket to Havana, Cuba, for a month long journey during the month of the Habana Biennal. With only $100, a suitcase filled with film, notebooks, and only the most crucial dresses & shoes... I left New York with a burning desire to uncover truths, torn from at birth. As I began to settle in, questioning everything around me and feeling so far yet so close, I began to realize the story I was meant to tell. My hands held a camera, but my heart knew it's creations would be but a false web of lies, spun into the minds of all extranjeros, all strangers.
So I realized the photographs I wanted to make would need to be alive; sharing with the viewer an insight into the daily life of willing Cubans, and providing the subject a time-based portal where an opinion can be shared and a bond can be made.
These video portraits aim to bridge a longstanding gap between Cubans and Cuban-Americans, both literally and figuratively. Each subject was asked to sit in front of the camera for 8-10 minutes if they desired a connection with the other side, positioning themselves in a way that mirrored their point of view in regards to the political situation creating this barrier. Each person was told that when staring into the lens of the camera, they were essentially staring into the eyes of another across the ocean. This project was made deliberately with the intent to be exhibited as an interactive installation, both in the U.S. and in Cuba, so that anyone desiring a connection (whether Cuban or not) would have the capacity to do so.
The following photographs are a selection of portraits made within the United States and the Caribbean.
Having grown up in Miami and currently residing in New York City, I am inspired to visually explore familiar elements from tropical as well as urban environments. The resulting images are playfully juxtaposed alongside one another, creating new landscapes that reflect both the disparities and similarities between the two cultures.
Beauty and Fashion
Channeling the same poetic rhythm that drives my approach to photography, this collection is a natural extension of my portraiture; introducing vibrant and inspired aspects of beauty and fashion.
“Just Between Us” is a visual narrative exploring modern relationships between men and women, as well as our innate yearnings to engage one another romantically. This work pulls on the threads tying young couples together, exposing many intricacies such as romance, gender roles, lust and intimacy. Photographing heavily in the privacy of bedrooms; a challenge is created to reveal moments and interactions that as a collective we can all relate too, but do not always get to see or even understand. Through the utilization of my own personal experiences and of the individuals around me, images surface portraying elements that are both performative and natural; reflecting moments in which couples are fully engaged and comfortable with themselves and with me. It is an experience unlike any other that requires vulnerability, compassion and trust.
As James Agee described in his introduction to Walker Evan's “Many Are Called,” modes of travel are “a neutral zone in which people are free to consider themselves invisible; time spent commuting is a hiatus from social interaction.”
“Strangers Like Us” concentrates on the hiatus we all endure as individual travelers; visually capturing, freezing, and suspending the invisible. As temporary passengers, we transcend this separation as strangers and become one - undeniably racing together through time and space. We each, almost uncontrollably, gaze inwardly with the capacity to isolate ourselves within our own minds and are linked through solitude. With such a rich history attached to public transportation, and especially that of New York, I find it significant to reflect on and internalize the various components affecting our experiences as passengers. Although the subway and buses may externally appear different from one decade to the next, these vehicles have never stopped carrying the mysteries and complexities we each face every time we step aboard.
This collection of portraits spans a variety of characters brought into the studio and onto the streets of New York.