Sandro Miller’s Photographs of Cuba


Chicago-based photographer Sandro Miller—whose work I knew from his book of photographs of bikers (titled, appropriately Bikers)—has published a book of photographs of Cuba, Imagine Cuba, 1999-2007. In an interview with Rick Kogan of the Chicago Tribune he spoke about his book. Here are some excerpts:

It was sports that first took Miller to Cuba, boxing specifically, and in his later visits he has taken photos of many boxers, allowed rare access by the government. There are some boxers on the 160 pages of this book and there are other athletes too, like wrestlers, volleyball players, swimmers. There are some baseball players, their names (Conrado Marrero Ramos or Luis Giraldo Casanova, known as “Mr. Hitter”) unknown to all but the most knowledgeable fans of international competitions.

But more interesting and compelling to me are the shots of less acclaimed or handsome folks, those he calls “the people of Cuba on the streets.”

“Cuba’s streets filled a void in my soul, a void that felt empty with loss,” he writes in the book’s introduction. That void was caused by the auto accident death of his father when he was a teenager. Photography has been his salvation.

To stare at the photos on pages 40 and 41 of the book, for instance – an elderly woman lying in bed and an old man covering his face with hands that show the ravages of a life of hard work – is to palpably feel the dignity and humanity in so-called ordinary people.

Even after all these years in the company of great newspaper photographers, I remain blissfully ignorant of their art. Matters such as lighting and composition are foreign to me. But the results so often amaze me.

In this book, I am transported to the island and meet its people, the strong and the weak, and come to appreciate, if not understand technically, what Miller calls the “amazing light to shoot in – a light that was spiritual in quality, a light that would change every time I turned a corner.”

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