Cuba’s rich, multiethnic cultural heritage brings an undeniable energy and vibrancy to the island nation, making it a photographer’s paradise. Every summer, that vibrancy reaches astonishing heights during the Carnival of Santiago de Cuba. Often described as “an explosion of color,” Carnival is the largest, best-known, and most traditional cultural celebration on the island. It is also where Logan Clew-Bachrach ’20 found herself as a photography student last summer.
For sixteen days, Logan and eight other high school students visited large cities, small towns, and remote mountain villages across Cuba. In addition a to a Spanish-speaking guide and program coordinator, the group traveled with two professional photojournalists, who delivered formal lessons on things like basic composition, framing, leading lines, focus, and storytelling. The content of each lesson shaped the field work—and the peer and instructor critiques—that followed.
“We stayed in a different city or town almost every night,” Logan says. “After a few days in the field, each student would submit three to six photos to be critiqued in the context of the technique learned in the previous lesson. When the topic was storytelling, for example, we spent the entire next day all day in one location building a story through a series of photos.”
The group shot the tobacco farms and limestone hills of the Valle de Viñales, and explored the Sierra Maestra, home to Fidel Castro’s rebel headquarters. They visited Las Terrazas, Cuba’s first ecologically-sustainable community, and trained their lenses on the Havana’s iconic squares and architecture. Along the way, they volunteered at a rural community center, working with young children and helping with agricultural projects. Their arrival in Santiago for the Carnival was a fitting culmination of their journey.
“We were in Santiago very close to the end of our trip,” says Logan. “We had been working on skills and technique for nearly two weeks. Everything seemed to build toward that one amazing night of shooting—carnival is so bright, so colorful, and so energetic, and our photos reflect that. It was amazing.”
Logan felt a deep connection to the people and culture of Cuba, and hopes to return very soon. When she does, it will be with camera in hand.
“Photography is really a great way to see things more deeply. When you’re composing a picture, you have to pay attention to every element of the scene before you. You have to notice details, and understand how each element relates to or reflects another. Your depth of understanding and appreciation for all that you are seeing and experiencing grows through photography.”
Logan’s travel with Rustic Pathways (rusticpathways.com) was made possible in part by a grant from the Kilbourne Summer Enrichment Fund. Established by John Kilbourne, Class of 1958, in memory of his parents Samuel W. and Evelyn S. Kilbourne, the Fund provides students with opportunities in the summer to participate in enriching programs in the arts.