My work tries to have the same structure as journalism: where, who, how, and when. This photo essay has responded to such a structure since I started it, trying to document mores and customs which are constantly changing, as is identity itself. The follow-up I do with all the rural villages I visit has a strong anthropological nuance, because human beings are an inseparable part of my photography.
My eyes, all this time, have never been those of a “distant voyeur.” I have become like a relative of the campesinos: I live with them, take photos on their children’s birthdays, and bring them clothes. They work hard in the fields; I just try to pay a heartfelt tribute to their nobility and hospitality.
Through the eyes of Raul Cañibano Ercilla, one can see life in Cuba from an intimate perspective, with all its complexities, wonders, struggles, humanity, love and sense of integrity.
In his black-and-white photographs, Mr. Cañibano captures Cuba’s national identity; one that may very well be threatened by the inevitable thrust of economic development and an international tourist economy.
He was born in Havana in 1961, two years after the beginning of the Cuban revolution, and grew up to be a welder working in civil aviation. While on vacation in 1990, Mr. Cañibano visited Cienfuegos — a city in south-central Cuba at the heart of the country’s sugar cane, mango, tobacco and coffee production area — where he had lived as a child.
There, he met a photographer who shot birthday parties and social events. This encounter launched his own career as a photographer. Mr. Cañibano began by shooting weddings and quinceañeros. But the 1990s were difficult. The supply of photographic materials that came to Cuba from East Germany was disrupted. As a result, Mr. Cañibano had to work with expired materials as he prepared the chemistry for developing, processing and printing.
By the end of the decade, he had begun to grow as a visual artist. In the series “Tierra Guajira,” he explored the theme of life in the countryside; a place he longed for, a place that transported him back to his childhood. And he paid homage to the humanity, kindness and nobility of the Cuban farmer. The series was awarded the grand prize in the 1999 Cuban national photography exhibit.
Other themes he has explored include religion, festivals and everyday life in the country and in the cities. Hispanic Catholicism and African religious practices are of great interest to him, as he says that religion is the reason why different cultures survive.
In his documentation, he feels responsible for providing an accurate portrayal of Cuban life. Today, Mr. Cañibano works as an advertising photographer in Havana. His images have been exhibited and recognized worldwide. It has been an honor to collaborate with him but I’m left wishing for something more: I sincerely hope to meet him in the near future.
Raúl Cañibano Ercilla is based in Havana as an advertising photographer. Born in 1961, his work focuses on people and demonstrates the vitality of modern-day Cuban photography. He has exhibited world-wide and won a major prize in Cuba for a project on the life of rural workers.
‘My photography is about people – connecting with them and showing their everyday lives. Cuba is fantastic for documentary photography and each week I thank God for my life. If I have any ambition at all, it is to be a member of an agency like Magnum, but only if I can live in Cuba forever.’
Cuban photographer Raúl Cañibano Ercilla was born in 1961. One of the younger generation of photographers born after the Revolution, his work focuses on people, everyday life, history and socialism. He is currently based in Havana where he works as an advertising photographer.
In 1993, he had his first solo exhibition, ‘Lonely Hunter’ at the Fototeca de Cuba. Since then his work has been shown in a number of exhibitions in Cuba as well as in Mexico, Canada, Brazil, the USA, Spain, Greece, Italy, Belgium and Japan. He has been featured in various publications, both at home and abroad. In 1999 he won the Grand Prix in the Cuban National Photography Exhibit for his project, ´Tierra Guajira´ (Country Land), concentrating on the life of rural workers.
Peter Marshall, in an essay on Cuban photography on the www.photography.about.com website, describes his work. ‘A series of his work on Havana makes great use of bringing together parts of a scene that somehow don´t belong. The shadow of an equestrian statue on a wall ends at its top, headless and riderless. Above the wall a number of slender modern street lamps poke up into the sky. Another picture shows an interior almost completely filled by a TV set, and the view past this and out of a window onto some steps up into a house. At the top of these, a child hangs, suspended from the arms of an adult who is swinging it in midair.’
He was one of eleven photographers selected for the ‘Cuba, Si! Cuba, Seen!’ retrospective of 50 years of Cuban photography at the Royal National Theatre in London in 2000. He is amongst the top photographers in Cuba, recognized, published and exhibited internationally, including in Cuba, United States, England, France, Norway, Australia, Japan and Spain, amongst others. His work is part of the Collection at the International Center of Photography in New York.