Photo Series Captures the Vibrant Architecture of Cuba in the Late 90s

Vibrant Cuban interior

With a large-format camera in hand and an Artisan Artisan license – issued by the Department of Treasure – in his pocket, American photographer Andrew Moore was given permission to travel to Cuba in 1998 to document the distinctive and unique architecture.

Moore has been addicted to the visual medium since he shot his first movie as a child. Although his father was initially reluctant, he helped Moore build a darkroom in the attic for him and his older brother to develop the photos they had taken on the Pentax Spotmatic.

During his years in college at Princeton, Moore took classes with photographer and master teacher Emmett Gwen, known for his intimate portraits and landscapes of the American West.

“I studied under him for three years, as if I had been an apprentice in the Middle Ages, and through him I learned all aspects of the business in great shape,” says Moore. betapixel.

Vibrant architecture in Cuba

“During my freshman year, Joel Meyrowitz was a visiting professor, at that time he was just starting to work on the Cape Light series. Obviously, I’ve always loved photography, and working with my 8×10 worked well for me, but when I saw What a color contact print looks like, that was when the missing piece fell into the puzzle: I decided at the time that I was going to be a full-size color photographer.”

Moore did not change his mind. He has taken his love of large format and traveled the world creating photography projects, capturing places with great detail and vibrant colours.

Vibrant architecture in Cuba

After completing a series about movie theaters in Times Square, he plans to travel to Cuba to shoot theaters there as well. Although the travel regulations were not clear, Moore still applied for a permit to enter Cuba and soon received the green light for his trip.

Vibrant architecture in Cuba Vibrant architecture in Cuba Vibrant architecture in Cuba

“I also had some contacts there through Daryl Couturier, the gallery maker, who was representing Cuban artists in Los Angeles,” Moore says. “So, when I arrived in Havana, I was immediately immersed in a very active art scene, and through these people, I met Paquito Vives, my guide and very close friend, who ended up working with me during all of my photography trips over the past 14 years.”

“But what really struck me was how the city felt, how every building and street corner had a story, and I immediately realized that I wanted to shoot, not just the theaters, but the architectural fabric of Havana itself.”

Vibrant architecture in Cuba Vibrant architecture in Cuba Vibrant architecture in Cuba Vibrant architecture in Cuba Vibrant architecture in Cuba

The photographic experience in Cuba was as colorful as the photos themselves. From accidentally towing his rental car to Fidel Castro’s motorcade—who was traveling quietly at night with the headlights on—to getting permission to photograph the Teatro Campoamor, the devastated opera house in central Havana, memories of the trip will always remain with Moore.

Campoamore Theater in Havana, Cuba
Campoamor Theater
Campoamore Theater in Havana, Cuba
Campoamor Theater

He filmed Havana and other Cuban cities between September 1998 and January 2001, she reported enormous. During that time, he photographed over seven hundred negatives at 8×10 resolution, all with the help of his friend Vivis, who played the role of scout and translator and helped make the experience as seamless as possible. Besides Vivis, Moore was accompanied by four other assistants.

Vibrant architecture in Cuba Vibrant architecture in Cuba Vibrant architecture in Cuba Vibrant architecture in Cuba Vibrant architecture in Cuba

“We all learned about the city by walking its streets, by knocking on doors, and by talking to residents about their city’s history,” Moore recalls. “People often complained about the condition of their homes, but they were always friendly, and invited us freely into their homes for small coffees and long conversations.”

Vibrant architecture in Cuba Vibrant architecture in Cuba Vibrant architecture in Cuba Vibrant architecture in Cuba

Although Moore’s collection of photographs of Cuba will forever remain the essence of the country and its homes, replete with history, tiled roofs, high ceilings, and full-length windows, he has mixed feelings about revisiting, particularly due to the death of his friend Vives.

The city has also changed a lot, it has been restored in many places, but the political situation is worse than it has been for a long time. If I go back at some point, I’m more likely to carry a heavy heart than a cumbersome camera. But then again, I am forever hopeful that there will be an open and tolerant base, a judgment that better reflects the beautiful, energetic, and brave Cubans themselves.”

More of Moore’s work can be found on his website and Instagram.


Image credits: Andrew Moore Pictures.

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