Crowd DNA's Hollie Jones took a trip to Cuba, documenting her experiences via photojournalism. Here it is, through her eyes, in ten images...
Politically isolated since the 1950s, Cuba is one of the last bastions of communism and perhaps the least commercialized nation in the Americas. Having bypassed decades of international trade tourism, Cuba has managed to preserve a unique national identity, making it a fascinating country – lost in time. As travel and trade barriers have started to relax, we decided to take a trip to Cuba and use photojournalism as a way to journal the experience (photojournalism is a method we use in many of our projects, though we don’t generally get the chance to share client work, so this is a nice opportunity to present the approach!).
There are few basketball courts in the city of Havana and so street games are popular. Stores selling basketball clothing and merchandise are referred to as ‘basketball museums’, because people visit the stores just to look at products – prices are way beyond local affordability.
The biggest challenges to local businesses are supply and human resources. There is no wholesale system, so restaurants must source food from the same markets and street vendors like these pictured – the same that are open to consumers, and where quantities are very limited.
Tobacco has been grown in Cuba for hundreds of years and farmers have a huge wealth of experience to draw on. Many argue that Cuban cigars are the best in the world. The Communist government of Cuba exercises a firm hold over the cigar industry. While this means that strict quality controls are in place, it also allows officials in Havana to control supply and keep prices high.
Havana’s empty buildings, blank wall spaces, tourism and street traffic provide optimal conditions for street art and graffiti to flourish. Few murals representing Fidel Castro, Che Guevara or communist propaganda remain; instead Cuban street artists explore folk and political narratives through cartoons, graffiti and abstract themes.
Entrepreneurship was forbidden in Cuba until President Raul Castro eased restrictions and, before 2010, barber shops and beauty salons were state-run. With the legalization of self-employment across a number of categories – from home-based snack shops and restaurants, to beauticians and barbers – home businesses have also emerged, such as the porch run hair salon pictured.
Cowboy culture is vivid across Cuba. Agriculture and tourism are the most prominent means of income, with cowboy culture straddling both industries. The Viñales Valley is a UNESCO World Heritage site and home to many of Cuba’s tobacco farms. It is one of the last places in the world where traditional methods of tobacco growing have survived, and a hub for the cowboy way of life.
Trade restrictions imposed upon Cuba after the revolution meant a very limited import of cars. Access to the US automotive industry was cut off, and other countries manufacturing cars were just too far away. In spite of new, more lenient trade agreements, the roads of Cuba remain dominated by classic cars (and the people of Cuba have mechanical skills that are second to none). In the spirit of Cuban entrepreneurialism, classic car owners offer tours in their vehicles in a highly lucrative tourist experience.
Photojournalism is a powerful tool for building empathy with audiences and understanding the realities of life across the globe. Photojournalism is also part of how Crowd DNA provides culturally charged commercial advantage to the world’s most exciting brands. To find out more, contact us at hello@crowdDNA.com