What an honor to have my book Vanishing Cuba reviewed by LFI – Leica Fotografie International, especially since I don’t shoot with Leica cameras (yet).  LFI has been the premier magazine for Leica photography since 1949. This renowned go-to publication is for anyone wishing to expand their knowledge, understanding, and exposure to all things Leica. Thank you, Ulrich, for appreciating my work and vision, and for showcasing my book. 

Leica Fotografie International Book Review

Cuba – the Caribbean island, is surely one of the most photographed places in the world. The light, the colours, the people, and the life on the streets: each moment seems to offer a perfect opportunity for a picture. One photographer who has explored Cuba repeatedly, through the perspective of his camera, is the American Michael Chinnici. 

His gorgeous photo book draws on the wealth of stories, experiences and encounters he has gathered during more than twenty trips in recent years. There is no doubt that the New York-based photographer has been successful in his efforts to capture the “soul of Cuba” in pictures. Over 300 photographs have been selected from tens of thousands of images and are now published in this opulent book. They allow the viewer to dive deeply into the country’s visual abundance beyond the island’s superficial colourfulness, and to share in the photographer’s many experiences and encounters. Beyond the island’s superficial colourfulness, the selection made from tens of thousands of images also shows thought-provoking motifs. These photographs also serve to document the changes Cuba faces as it seeks to evolve out of more than 60 years of isolation and decline. Chinnici has mastered the repertoire of the island’s well-known destinations; however, he has also moved away from the tourists’ beaten tracks, and travelled through the country’s interior, where he has photographed rarely seen aspects of the island. 

Despite certain concerns, Chinnici only needed two days in Havana, during his first trip in 2013, to fall completely in love with the Cubans. In his opening words, the photographer reiterates, “Any fears or concerns I had evaporated into this beautiful and welcoming culture. Cubanos (as they are called) welcomed me with open arms.” This closeness is especially evident in his portraits, which complement the landscapes and street photographs, and are among the most intense motifs in the book. 

The photo book is divided into twelve chapters, with titles that designate the most important features of life in Cuba: Soul, Hope, Passion, Kindness, Excellence, Sacrifice, Resilience, Struggle, Pride, Chance, Closing, A Day in Life. Chinnici chose the title of the book, based on his own experience, because he is convinced that, “Cuba as we know it will vanish. It’s not a matter of whether or not it will change. It’s more a question of when it will change. And as appealing as that may be to tourists and photographers like myself, Cuba must find a way to evolve, grow, and escape its misery, without giving up the very soul that makes it such a special place.”

Vanishing Cuba is the first photo book of the renowned documentary photographer. He was particularly concerned that the print be of the highest quality. The colour pictures are printed with a 7-colour spectra system, and the black and white ones with a 3-black Triton system. Consequently, the images have enormous depth. Yet, the colouring in some of them definitely takes some getting used to; and purists may consider that they have been taken too far. As far as the photographer is concerned, however, it is all about his subjective perception, and the magical light and interplay of colours in Cuba are necessary to describe the unique atmosphere: Viva Cuba and the Cuban people! (Ulrich Rüter)

Michael Chinnici: Vanishing Cuba
With texts by Leonor Anthony, Rocío Montes Serrano and Michael Chinnici.
348 pages, 300 colour and black and white pictures (ten colour offset printing)
31.2 x 33.5 cm, English / Spanish

Red Octopus Publishing

The photo book is available in a “silver edition,” a “deluxe edition,” and a limited “reserve edition” for collectors.

All images on this page: © Michael Chinnici


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