Foreword of Habana Libre
By William Westbrook
The Malecon, after midnight. Hundreds of lovers on the wall, as if the night wasn’t steamy enough. Below them the sea, breathing slowly. Beyond them the nightlife of Havana. Not Old Havana, not those postcards. The real city, two million strong, most of which are awake.
At Turf, Dj.Joy making the music. So much smoke that it ﬁlls the small spaces between the ﬁbers in your clothes. Drinks and cigarettes. Connections to be conﬁrmed later. Maybe 50 people outside the club by the velvet rope, awaiting a nod to enter that may not come.
Avenida de los Presidentes, dense with teenagers. Small groups hang together. Skateboarders rolling around monuments to revolutionary heroes. Girls with a look, flitting and flirting. The clothing of choice seems to be heavy metal black. Everyone finds their place, their circles, their friends, and it is surprisingly quiet. Maybe 1000 kids by 3am.
One night. One square mile of Havana.
Surprise to many in the world, and most in the United States: there is happiness in Cuba. The US policy is crushing, socialism is an empty closet and the country seems held together by average families masterfully adept at jerry-rigging their day- to- day existence. Really, Cubans may be the most ingenious people on the planet.
Yet, despite the negative wire-service photographs imprinted on the world’s brain, there’s a pretty good life here for many. To name a few: artists and directors and actors and models and musicians. The creative class.
Soon after Fidel Castro came to power in 1959 he signaled his intent to promote Cuban culture. Other decrees promoted education and medicine. Today the culture is rich and proud. Literacy is almost unequalled in the world. Medical knowledge and care are superior.
And the country is broke.
Here, on an island of survivors, there are those who survive better than others. Some are embarrassed about it. Others are afraid to draw attention to it for fear the socialist government will punish them for having a good life.
Here’s the t-shirt: Cuba. It’s complicated.
Yari, bangs and beautiful, part of the life. A member of several farandulas, small circles of friends intersecting like Olympic rings. Each ring an interest: music, or fashion, or clubs or art. One farandula even alerts her to the party-of-the-night, the letters PMM chirped to her cell phone: Por Mejor Mundo, For A Better World. With directions.
Actual money, she proves, is not always necessary for the above-average life. But farandulas, that’s different. Social connection trumps politics, status or wealth. A model dates a photographer who is friends with a musician whose song is chosen by a director for a film with an actor who admires the work of an artist who uses the model for a model.
Here are the other photographs, then, of the other faces of Cuba. They are international, yet travel is difficult if not impossible. They are fashionable, though Cuban couture is an oxymoron and anyway there are no stores. They are socialists who would be lost without capitalism to sell their creative wares in the world’s markets. They are the privileged class in a classless society.
Their lives are complicated. But that’s Cuba.
Art Edition No. 1–100
- Michael Dweck: Habana Libre
- Clothbound volume in lucite slipcase: 24.7 x 31.8 cm (9.75 x 12.5 in.) 290 pages, 214 duotone plates, 21 color plates, 9.75” x 12.5”, 3 gatefolds
- Release date: October 1, 2011
- Interviews by William Westbrook
- ISBN 978-88-6208-184-9
- Printed and bound in Italy
- Limited to 100 copies
- Each book numbered and signed by Michael Dweck
- Includes a gelatin silver print "Tropicana 4", Habana, Cuba 2011, signed and numbered by Michael Dweck
The duotone illustrations are made with a special treatment for black and white images that produces exquisite tonal range and density. All color illustrations are color-separated and reproduced in the finest technique available today, which provides unequalled intensity and color range.
About Michael Dweck
Michael Dweck is an American photographer, filmmaker and visual artist.
His work has been featured in solo exhibitions around the world, and become part of important international art collections. Notable solo exhibitions include Montauk: The End, 2004, a paradisiacal and erotic surf narrative set on Long Island; Mermaids, 2009, which explored the female nude refracted by river waters; and Habana Libre, 2010; an intimate exploration of privileged artists in socialist Cuba, which made him the first living American artist to have a solo exhibition in Cuba. These and other works have also been published in large, limited-edition volumes.
Previously, Dweck studied fine arts at the Pratt Institute in Brooklyn, New York and went on to become a highly regarded Creative Director, receiving more than 40 international awards, including the coveted Gold Lion at the Cannes International Festival in France. Two of his long-form television pieces are part of the permanent film collection of The Museum of Modern Art in New York. Michael Dweck currently lives in New York City and Montauk, N.Y., where he is finishing his first feature-length film.