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Cuba: Photographs by Jeffrey Milstein

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  • Posted July 9, 2011

    more from this reviewer

    A Photographic Poem about the Island of Cuba

    Jeffrey Milstein has managed to blend the polished brilliance of the new buildings in colorful Cuba with the romantically beautiful decadence of the withering buildings of the Cuba remembering past glory. This brilliant book of color photographs at times feels like looking at contemporary abstract paintings by such painters as Mitchell Johnson, so geometrically delineated are the blocks of garish colors that form the interiors and exteriors of old Havana. At times he places people in his camera paintings and at other times he lets the architecture and the sense of decay speak for itself.

    Reading CUBA: PHOTOGRAPHS brings the viewer into the presence of a country fairly hidden from us since the Revolution, that time when tourists from the world (and especially the United States) flocked to the casinos and breathtaking beauty of an island paradise. The time stopped and with it the care and upkeep of treasurable old colonial buildings that mirrored European elegance, buildings that now, courtesy of Milstein's lens are seen to be shelter for multiple families living on the edge of poverty. But Milstein doesn't drape pity over these images: he instead shows us a people who remain proud and committed to the relics of the past to remind them of better times. Some images show rooms overflowing with Santos and religious memorabilia arranged to make a crumbling room feel like a grand cathedral.

    Viewing these images (so artistically rendered that they deserve framing and placement on the walls of our homes!) leave the viewer wholly satisfied with the grandeur of the color blocks that serve to rebuild the grandeur that once was Cuba. But more important sociologically is Milstein's sharing image of the people of the private-from-the-world island. They have great dignity, they are still dancing and singing, they are still waiting for the shoreline curtain to be lifted. This is a joyous book that celebrates a place and its people in a way few others have been able to manage. These pictures make us all the more eager to once again visit our island neighbor.

    Grady Harp

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