Cuba is all about the music

In Cuba, everywhere you turn, infectious Latin rhythms can be heard. The music is one of the best things about Cuba. I am impressed with the way the Cubans take their less than adequate instruments and make amazing music with them. I don’t think I’ve ever seen a high quality guitar being play on any of my trips. I do hope the renewed relations will eventually bring quality instruments to the Cubans. These talented musicians deserve them! I can’t help but make a photography point here. What a great example they are in cementing the idea that it is not the gear that makes a great image, its the person behind the gear. In this case, better quality instruments will stay in tune better, sound so much richer and be easier to play. That still does not take away from my point. You can feel the soul of these musicians as they play, regardless of the quality of the instrument.

As a guitar player, I am particularly drawn to fellow players, but of course I am a former trumpet player too! You’ll notice in one picture a yellow guitar pick. On this trip, I brought 100 picks and gave them to any and every guitar player I ran into. I also brought 6 sets of strings. The reaction to these simple gifts was heart warming. So glad I did this and would suggest you do too, if you travel to Cuba.

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  1. Stephan Dietrich March 29, 2015 at 4:38 pm #

    Wowmazing portrait and attention to details JB! Wish I could press play and hear what you heard, but that too comes through your photography – even without sound.

    Looks like you created the backgrounds in studio, had custom lighting and such… but you had even better… the natural lighting, natural Cuban painted buildings, reflective lighting and the spirit, pride and joy of these people you photographed.

    As for instruments, I am reminded of Willie Nelson’s guitar, “Trigger.” After 45+ years, thousands of performances, wear-and-tear … it still plays. It’s a part of Willie, his sound and his band. Could Willie get a new guitar? Indeed. But, would it sound the same? I doubt it.

    As you mention, is a photograph created by the camera? … Or, by the visions of the person behind the camera? Is a musician only as good as his instrument? Or, is the instrument merely an amplifier of the person’s talent behind the sounds coming through the instrument while played by the performer? Can someone duplicate the sound by using the same instrument or camera?

    Or, is there a unique “one-of-a-kind relationship” of the person behind the camera or instrument whereupon their visions, talents and such come through by knowing their craft, their sound, their grove, harmony, soul and passions for what they do and gifts they have?

    All in all, and even though these are still life images without sound, your images captured some great detail, expressions and enough information where we can imagine the sound and see the pride through your images. Awesome work!

  2. Carla March 29, 2015 at 5:23 pm #

    John, that is a great point comparing musicians and photographers’ equipment versus talent and vision. It is quite amusing when someone says “you must have a really good camera” or “your camera must take great pictures.” Somehow fancy and larger size seems to matter and impress people!
    Just LOVE these photos! Cuba would be my kind of place and, hopefully, I will get there one day!
    I think it’s wonderful that you brought the picks and strings; but then again, that’s the kind of person you are!!

  3. Steve L April 3, 2015 at 9:21 am #

    One can almost hear the music coming from these images. Nice, John.

  4. Brenda May 26, 2015 at 3:59 pm #

    I’m way behind on my reading friends’ blog posts, but came across this one today. I like the images, but most importantly I wanted to state that in all the years I have been going to Cuba, I have brought things – fishing line and hooks for the guys at the Malecón, pens and pencils for kids, AND guitar strings!! Like minds, eh? The first set we gave out was almost a tearful moment, the two young men playing in our paladar were so touched by our gift. I’ve also brought along a small bunch of prints for those people that I know I will visit again – and they too have been so well-received. But it’s the usable gifts like strings, picks, even sewing kits, etc., that are the most appreciated! Thanks for sharing that John, it’s a great idea for anyone traveling there.

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