Exposing the Truth in Havana through Photography

In a country where the words "truth" and "reality" are relative terms, one photographer shares a glimpse of his perspective through the camera lens.

Photography is all about exposure. Not only in terms of light entering the camera's lens, but also in the way photographs expose a point of view, a perspective, a reality of the artist who composes them. Never have I seen this lesson so clearly as when I was sweating through my shorts, struggling to concentrate on the colorful Spanish of Cuban photographer, Irolan Marodelli, showing me his work in his rooftop studio in Havana. 

In a country where the words "truth" and "reality" are entirely relative terms, Marodelli is sharing a glimpse of his perspective through his camera lens. Working entirely in the darkroom and using himself as his primary model, Marodelli uses powerful metaphors to deliver his criticism on Cuban society and politics. 

Marodelli's work is strong, visceral, and real. You can understand it in any language. His perspective is his story, and he tells that story boldly and unapologetically because his art is his reality: the reality of his point of view.

"It probably won't happen because my art isn't that well spread, but they could knock on my front door any day and tell me that what I'm doing isn't allowed," Marodelli explains the threat of government censorship in Cuba. 

Cuba's tradition of censorship began silencing artists in the 1970s, and currently prevents Marodelli from exhibiting his most poignant work anywhere outside of his studio. Because the bulk of Marodelli's portfolio criticizes the island's political leaders, he works under the assumption that most of his art could never be freely put into the public eye. But that doesn't stop him from expressing his point of view.

"If I were to stop making my art out of fear, then they would win," Marodelli says. "That is true censorship." 

We want to acknowledge and thank the past, present, and future generations of all Native Nations and Indigenous Peoples whose ancestral lands we travel, explore, and play on. Always practice Leave No Trace ethics on your adventures and follow local regulations. Please explore responsibly!

Jenna Herzog

Writer, editor and photographer for all things outdoors and travel. Happiest when on the trail, photographing a sunset, drinking a beer or climbing on rocks.