OUR MAN IN HAVANA
MICHAEL CHINNICI DISTILLS OVER 100,000 PHOTOGRAPHS INTO 300 IMAGES THAT MAKE UP HIS BEHEMOTH COFFEE TABLE BOOK, VANISHING CUBA. VOLUMINOUS, VIVID, AND MIRRORING THE REALITIES OF A MODERNISING CUBA, HIS WORK STRIVES TO BRING FIRSTHAND CONTEXT NEEDED FOR ANY EXPLORATION OF A COUNTRY TOO FEW OF US REALLY KNOW.
AS TOLD TO JULIAN MANNING
PHOTOGRAPHS BY MICHAEL CHINNICI
Dozens of trips, and thousands of photographs later, Michael Chinnici has framed Cuba in a way many outsiders, and Cubans, have never experienced the mysterious and mesmerizing island nation. Intriguingly anecdotal and assiduously thorough, Chinnici’s coffee table book, which we discuss at N.Y.C.’s The Jane Hotel, heeds the trappings that come with documenting the relatively closed-off nation and all the colourful Caribbean clichés that appear easy to fall into—especially through the eyes of an American.
A child who hid under his school desk during Cuban Missile Crisis drills, decades later, Chinnici approaches documenting the country in a refreshingly unclouded manner. He puts the Cuban people and their stories at the forefront of his fascinating forays, focusing on the lives of ballerinas and boxers—some of the few civilians that can travel outside of the nation without connections or affluence—bygone markets, far-flung cities seemingly lost in time, and ‘the elegant crumble’ of family-owned restaurants and neoclassic structures.
So many of the people and places Chinnici dialled his camera in on have passed on from the streets they once defined; but they are remembered in his book, which ensures the dichotomy of Cuba’s changing society is imprinted in the minds of those curious enough to discover skillfully curated snippets of its everyday life. Flipping through the pages of Vanishing Cuba, you see more than surface-level subjects. Touching stories and amity fill the spreads, encouraging the reader to take a closer look at a country little known to most of the world beyond its name.
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It was a pleasure to be interviewed by my peer and my good friend Michael Steverson, and an honor to be featured in 1x Magazine, which has set the standard for excellence in modern photography.
Every now and then, a photo book is completely astounding. The images are technically brilliant and insightfully composed. The subject is engaging. But that doesn’t begin to talk about the power or the effect of the collection.
CIGAR AFICIONADO Magazine reviewed my VANISHING CUBA book and decided it must be in their 2022 Father’s Day Gift Guide. And to be listed at the top of the selection is extra sweet! What an honor!