Photographing Trinidad, Cuba
Episode 4 of “3 Minutes in Cuba”: Trinidad Street Photography
We are hunting right now,” says Julio Muñoz as we wander the cobblestone avenues and alleyways of Trinidad, Cuba. “I want you to have an eagle’s eye.”
We’re exploring the exquisitely preserved colonial town with the local photographer, who has been photographing the residents of his hometown ever since a National Geographic photographer hired him to be fixer and subsequently awakened his passion for street photography. Now he offers tours for visitors and demonstrates his technique for capturing street life.
“When I teach photography, my style is basically the fast use of the camera and anticipation,” he says. “My style now goes by its official name — John Wayne style. The style I try to achieve is a really quick action — very quick. The people don’t know that I took the picture because I prepare the picture before it happens. Anticipation. Anticipation.”
Demonstrating what he means, Muñoz briefly stops to stalk his prey: a man pushing a wheel barrow full of fresh vegetables down the bumpy road.
“I predict the path he will take,” he explains. “Then, I focus on the ground where I want him. I put down the camera and don’t put it back up to my eyes until the last moment.”
The shutter fires, capturing the moment a woman stops to look down at his vegetables.
Armed with his advice on street photography, we follow Julio’s lead trying to capture the action as it happens. Life in Cuba doesn’t exist inside the four walls of peoples’ homes, but out in the open in full view. We’re not as quick on the draw as the John Wayne of photography, so most people knew we were taking their picture, but they don’t seem to mind too much.
“Cuban people are very friendly, so if you ask for permission you have a very high percentage of the person allowing you to take the photo,” says Muñoz. “But the person will stop what they are doing or they will look at the camera and smile or change what they are doing. And you might want a specific moment.
Those moments never get old for him. No matter how often he steps outside his home, there’s something new to see. Photography is his passion and the people are his muses.
“I am not rich, but I have a very interesting life,” he says. “I am not rich in money, but rich in friends and living in this amazing city of Trinidad. I am very happy with that.”
On the next installment, we’re leaving Trinidad behind and taking a walk on the wild side at the Parque el Cubano.