Tuesday, December 8, 2015

"Cuba 1959" by Burt Glinn (Reel Art Press) Edited by Michael Shulman and Tony Nourmand

ISBN: 978-1-909526-31-0 Reel Art Press

"Cuba 1959" by Burt Glinn

For a lot of Americans, the word 'Cuba' brings either a sense of great anger, or adventure.  Photographer and member of the Magnum Photos group, Burt Glinn, went to Cuba the day the revolution happened.   When covering a story or incidents that is happening at that moment, a photographer must be part of that moment. If they lost the moment, then they don't have their photograph.   Glinn, I suspect, is a man who always has his moment, and he will capture it.   He surely did in Havana, 1959.

Photograph by Burt Glinn

"Cuba 1959" is very much a photo-journalistic narration and the beauty of this book is not the fact that Glinn was behind the scenes, but actually in the crowd.  So, his point-of-view is from the public and what they saw in those series of days around January 1, 1959.  It's amazing that the photographer on December 31, 1958 was at a black-tie party in New York City when he heard the news that Cuban dictator Fulgencio Batista had fled Cuba.  By next morning, Glinn was in Havana.  

Beautifully edited, the book lays out a narrative where Glinn starts his work as soon as he landed in Havana.   The one thing that really struck me, was how handsome and beautiful the Cuban people are.  They're incredibly chic!   The Revolutionaries and Castro himself is a good-looking group of guys.   Whatever this by design or happenstance, it almost looks like a fashion shoot, instead of a battle on a Havana street.   The architecture as well, although in the background of these photos, is magnificent in itself.  For those who are interested in Cuban style, this book is for you.  But with bullets and upheaval.  

Photograph by Burt Glinn

"Cuba 1959" is not a political book, but a document of things that happened in the early days of 1959.    What happened afterwards can be debated, but this book is not about that debate.  What this book is about is a series of moments, where a change took place.  And change for the moment, is usually the best.   Tomorrow or later, that is another question all together.   Gillian is a superb photographer.  Although I never been to Cuba, I can feel the presence of the city and its architecture through this book.  A classic. 

Book layout : art direction and design by Joakim Olsson


- Tosh Berman
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