[ 6 August 2016 - Saturday...later in the day ]
REALITY VS. IMAGERY
Not unlike the debate between architectural renderings and the completed built work is the ability for photographic images to "lie". Obviously this is something we are all aware of, likely complicit of ourselves, and something I definitely expected to find occurring in photographs of Havana. Something I tried to touch on in my thesis is how an aesthetic can be applied or manipulated to force or "sell" an idea. In this case, filters, cropping, saturating all are applied to convince the viewer that a specific Malecón exists.
The photograph probably takes the largest portion of the blame for the discrepancy between an internal and external identity of the city. But the interesting thing is that none of the photographs below outright lie, they are all versions of the truth to the extent that there could or would ever be one true photograph of the Malecón. And I think that this is where things get interesting because there are so many uses of the image. Their purpose can be to inform, document, educate, sell commercially, sell ideology, speculate, and used for personal expression. Can one of these ever be an unbiased objective representation of the landscape / cityscape in front of the viewer? By framing a photograph or choosing a drawing's paper size something always gets left out or off.
Yesterday I was reading an article online titled, "These 10 Photos Will Make You Rethink Your Trip to Cuba." Click bait probably as the photos weren't anything different from what everyone else photographs and shares (myself included at times) and I don't think the photos caused anyone to re-think anything. Perhaps if you read his words you'd rethink your initial assumptions but even then, maybe not.*
I'm getting sidetracked, none of that is actually my point. Each image was partially obscured by a banner ad that popped up at the bottom. Image ads are my biggest pet peeve and these ones were incessantly trying to sell me a Honda. Other than being irrelevant I found the image juxtaposition a bit ironic.
* Also there are a number of things the author writes that I don't agree with but won't get into it now...
From: The Embodied Image: Imagination and Imagery in Architecture by Juhani Pallasmaa
"Images are deployed for countless purposes, but there are two opposite types of images in relation to the individual freedom of the subject: images that dictate, manipulate and condition, and others that emancipate, empower and inspire. The first type is exemplified by images devised for political and consumer conditioning, the second by emancipatory poetic and artistic images. The first category narrows down, confines and weakens the freedom, choice and individuality of the subject by means of focusing and channeling his/her attention and awareness into a forced pattern, often grounded in the subject’s sense of guilt and inferiority. The latter category of images opens up, fortifies and liberates by means of strengthening personal imagination, emotion and affect. The first category of images weakens us and makes us more certain of ourselves and dependent on authority, whereas poetic imagery reinforces our sense of self, autonomy and individual independence. The poetic images are images of individual integrity and freedom." [ pp. 021 ]
These two types of images are almost entirely what I have seen in Havana so far and it makes sense that they would be on the extreme ends of the spectrum.
Below are the images used in the book as examples of the Commanding Image (left) and the Emancipating Image (right).
And just a few examples of what I found in Havana...
The Commanding Image
And my personal favorite...although there were actually so many of these types of photos at the Museo de la Revolución that it was hard to choose a favorite.
The Emancipating Image
[ 28 July 2016 - Thursday ]
I’ve made it to the Hostal del Ángel - the beautiful house! It is funny how in other countries, even traveling with Martin, I’ve felt "sketched out" by some of the places we’ve stayed. I don’t know if it's a survival mechanism or what but I felt very safe at Eddy’s and I feel secure at this casa particular too.
I need to make a thesis and find the supporting evidence - at this point I think I can count on there being four types of images IN Havana:
Miscellaneous images (family photos, menus, chintzy tourist art, etc)
Images of the city that I take
The thing is that I want the exhibition to have images and then also physical things, either paper artifacts or objects. Maybe it can be set up like this:
History (events that took place), Place (objective captures of what it looks likes)
Colonialism, Commercial Tourism, Anti-Communism, Decaying Disneyland
Communism / Lack of commercial advertisements, ¡Cuba Libre!, Revolution / Fidel Propaganda
Thriving Art Scene
Some nights the evening hits and I’m counting down the hours until the next morning. The Hostal del Ángel at least has a bookshelf full of books to borrow, but only one of them was in English, “These High, Green Hills.” If anyone actually clicks through to Amazon and reads the book's description, you'll feel pity for me. But since I can't understand a lick of German the pickings were slim! And I’ve got to read something other than the Cuba Reader or academic texts on the image! I've been anti-Kindle for a while (my loyalty lies with actual paper and actual ink and that old book smell....mmmm) but DANG I wish I had snagged Martin's to use on this trip.