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Cuban PhOtography alter the 7f1: te ,,,er,,,CrictIna V Wints.IV0 BOOK REVIEW Hearts and Minds: Cuban Photography BY JAKE MILLER Shifting Tides: Cuban Photography After the Revolution Edited by Tim B. Wride Merrell Publishers 160 pages, $39.95. Havana in My Heart: 75 Years of Cuban Photography Edited by Gareth Jenkins Chicago Review Press 125 pages, $29.95. Tsolitary moments, engraving them in tarnished silver or inks and dyes on a sheet of paper. How wonderful to be able to save and savor the graphic and dramatic shades of a single moment. How frustrating not to know what happened a moment ago, what will happen next, or how and why the elements in the picture came together just so. That feeling of frustration can only be compounded when the subject is as ethereal as the nation, the culture, and the state of mind of Cuba, which has come to carry so much meaning for so many. Two recent collections of Cuban photographsthat is, photographs made by Cubans in Cubatrace very different routes through contemporary Cuban history and photography. Gareth Jenkins’ Havana in My Heart is a nostalgic look at the people and places of Havana. Jenkins is a British business consultant specializing in trade in Latin America and Cuba. He has clearly fallen hard for Cuba and wants to share a vision of the city he loves with the world. Toward that end, he has gathered pictures from the Prensa Latina archive, the Cuban National Library, and the files of various Cuban photojournalism magazines. Shifting Tides: Cuban Photography After the Revolution is the catalog for an exhibition of photographs that editor Tim B. Wride curated at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art. Wride focuses on the evolution of art photography from the reportage and propaganda of the late 1950s through the surprisingly conceptual, abstract work of the late 1990s. In the preface to Shifting Tides, filmmaker Wim Wenders writes that although Cuba is geographically in the middle of North and South America, it feels like “a place in the middle of nowhere in terms of both space and time.’ When you emerge onto the street from a Cuban cinema, he writes, you blink your eyes and ask where am I? What year are we in? You can get the same feeling looking at some of the photos in these books. To try to help readers find their way through the pictures, both editors classify the pictures by broad categories. Havana in My Heart has chapters called “Street Scenes,” “Revolution,” “Everyday and Ritual”, and “Artists and Performers:’ There are archival shots from the late 19th century and from the pages of the photo press of the ’60s and ’70s. There are pictures with titles like “the fat man,” “the Chinaman,” and “the black woman,” and scenes of people walking, shopping, talking, and living their lives. There are lots of wonderfully weird historical shots: Castro in 1947 as a clean-shaven student activist in a flashy tie; Fidel and Che playing golf; Che speaking with Jean-Paul Sartre and Simone de Beauvoir. Most of the time, the pictures are presented because of what they show, not as a form of visual art. To understand why the photo was taken, you either have to already know who the people in the picture are or you have to read the captions. Miguel Ulnas’ 1993 photo of women praying at a shrine to the Lady of Miracles in Columbus Cemetery does not look especially miraculous on its own. 26 THE TEXAS OBSERVER 1/17/03