Cuba Street Photography, Wedding Edition
It's no secret we love shooting weddings. This past February we had the amazing opportunity to spend a week with this fantastic couple in Cayo Coco, Cuba. We stayed at the Melia Jardines Del Ray which happens to be about a 40 minute car ride (in a '57 Chevy) to the city of Morón. We knew we had to make the most of this destination wedding and thankfully Jolyn and Jason were totally up for anything!
First impressions show a city in ruin. Was it though?
So the city itself isn't in great shape. Most of the buildings appear to be constructed out of poured concrete and wood. They are all dilapidated. I could sense how beautiful this city might have been when it was built, in a different Cuba. Decades of neglect have taken it's toll on the infrastructure, however this is more a testament to the people of this troubled country. They persevere. The auto-mobiles were rare, and when you did see one it was a beat up old American classic or a Russian Lada. Of course, there are some beautifully restored old cars but they are mostly reserved for the Canadian and European tourists. There was a very stark contrast between what I perceived to be a terrible situation and what was, in reality, a functioning city with content people. Not unlike the cities we all live in.
The people were happy. They were genuinely interested to watch what we were doing.
I admit, I felt completely safe the entire time I was there. Never was I approached in any fashion. Everyone who walked or cycled by was more interested to see just what in the heck we were doing. When we shoot in Halifax or Vancouver often people have their faces into their smartphones; sometimes completely oblivious to the photo shoot that could be taking place right next to them. People in Canada have seen it all. Sure, we get the occasional person congratulating the couple but that's usually it. The reaction of the Cuban people showed me how different they live than we do, but it also showed me just how much they were the same.
Were they as happy as we were? More happy?
I've always believed happiness is relative. I've heard the most wealthy of individuals often experience woe just as much or more than their middle class counterparts. So how does happiness translate to the people living their lives in a developing nation? Are they automatically subjected to less happiness than their neighbours in the USA or Canada? I know what I saw. I saw smiling people in the streets. I saw young couples in love riding bikes to a picnic. I saw children dressed in their best school uniforms skipping down the street and I heard the carrying sound of laughter echoing off those crumbling walls.
Love is universal. It knows no bounds and accepts no social constructs.
Granted, a beautiful bride in a white wedding gown may seem closer to Hollywood than the streets of any city in Cuba, but the symbol is the same anywhere you go. Love. Committed, undying love and devotion to another. A complete trust of your own self, your identity, in the hands of another. Something that knows no language, no political affiliation or economic position. It's love and it's known in every single corner of this planet. From a studio apartment in Manhatten to the pygmies of the Ituri forest in northern Congo. The people of Cuba certainly know it and recognize it. Just look at the passer-byes watching these newly weds.
You want an amazing set? This is how we do it.
It's an adventure, every step of the way without a moments hesitation. You look for a challenge and then jump straight into it without ever giving it another thought or a moment of doubt. Embrace what you are working with, whether it be peeling paint on concrete in Morón or the beautiful backdrop of the Halifax Public Gardens. Embrace it and own it.
Get out there. Go find your Cuba.
Jolyn and Jason, thank you both from the bottom of our hearts. You trusted us with taking the most important photos of your lifetime. You embraced this amazing opportunity and, I think, together we've created some of the most beautiful photos I've been a part of. So again - Thank you.