An update from Cuba by Mark A Phillips

Mark shared his ongoing work from Cuba at Photo Scratch in October 2017. He has since returned to Cuba and shares this update about the work he is making and the efforts to make positive change through photography.

Reparación MP2018-1Basketball practice

“Reparación – the never-ending life of Cuban things” – is still work in progress (aren’t they always?). Following Photo Scratch, I returned to Havana and went to Camagüey in December to develop the project scope and narrative.  At Photo Scratch the feedback focused on need for a little more context to introduce the subject and locations.  Image 1 (a car repair workshop in La Lisa, on the outskirts of Havana) and Image 2 (Yalisan, repairing lighters on Calle Bernaza, Habana Vieja) are examples. As you might remember I like to document using the occasional ‘quirky’ image as well to engage the viewer, like in Image 3 (Modesto, an umbrella repairer who works from a corridor outside his apartment on Pocito, Centro Havana).

Reparación MP2018-3

I am going back again in late March, to hopefully complete this phase of the project and I have one or two environmental portraits I’d like to include. The plan then is to get it out to a number of reviewers and possible outlets. I am also going to explore publication in topic relevant magazines and journals (i.e. sustainability, environmental).  For my last visit I produced a small zine, mainly to show to the people I’d photographed, but I am thinking I might also create an updated version for wider distribution or even a dummy book.

While I’m in Cuba, I also continue to work on another vaguely related project, which is more about urban regeneration:
Áreas Deportivas Urbanas – again, still work in progress. It explores urban sports areas that have been created from derelict sites in and around Havana. Within Habana Vieja itself there are four, all as a result of a local charity BarrioHabana. I am heading out again in late March to do some work with them on some of their upcoming events and also adding to this project. I’ve not shown this project at Photo Scratch, but I entered a few images from the  sports area project in the recent LifeFramer – An Instant, and my image of shadows of basketball players, in Cristo, Habana Vieja, was a winning image, so that was a little publicity for this project.
Basketball practice
From a documentary viewpoint, I would describe my work as ‘constructive documentary’. Rather than show what’s wrong, I try to show a sense of hope, a potential or positive impact.  I believe that many small positive changes can and will effect bigger change, in time. I want to try and give a small voice to those making a positive contribution but in a way that is also engaging to the viewer. If I engage you in the story, I have made that small connection to potentially help.
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