Michael Dweck: Habana Libre (英語) ハードカバー – 2011/9/30
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Habana Libre is a stunning contemporary exploration of the privileged class in a classless society: a secret life within Cuba. Michael Dweck's photographs are exhilarating, sensual and provocative, with a sexy and hypnotic visual rhythm. This is a face of Cuba never before photographed, never reported in Western media and never acknowledged openly within Cuba itself. It is a socially connected world of glamorous models and keenly observant artists, filmmakers, musicians and writers captured in an elaborate dance of survival and success. Here too are surprising interviews with sons of Fidel Castro and Che Guevara as well as many others who define the creative culture of Cuba and give it texture and substance. Habana Libre is not a media-fabricated Cuban postcard of crumbling mansions or old American cars, but a revealing and contemporary work by a visual artist adept at capturing the quiet gesture, the sensuous eye and the proud and provocative pose of that most romantic of contradictions: Cuba.
The photographs of Michael Dweck (born 1957) were first exhibited at Sotheby's, New York, in 2003, in the auction house's first solo exhibition for a living photographer. Dweck's first major photographic work, The End: Montauk, N.Y., published in 2004, blended documentary and staged photography to produce a compelling portrait of a beach community that exists as much in the realm of memory and desire as in the real world. His acclaimed 2008 volume Mermaids explored the female nude refracted in water. Dweck's work has become part of important international art collections and has been shown in major solo gallery exhibitions around the world.
Dweck focuses on Havana's clandestine and seemingly carefree creative class of artists, writers and models. "Suprising to many," Westbrook asserts, "there is happiness in Cuba." Dweck shows us that the sensuous, slinky side of pre-Castro Cuba never really dissapeared; it just went underground.--Jack Crager "American Photo "
Michael Dweck's "Habana Libre" is a sun-baked "Who's Who" of Cuba's cultural elite.--Stephen Heyman "T: The New York Times Style Magazine "
Dweck's new book, Habana Libre, reveals a secretive collective of friends based in the country's capital, making work that treads a fine line between conceptual and subversive.--Editor "Nowness "
The photographs reveal a Cuba typically seen only by insiders--Ann Binlot "Artinfo "
Cuba--once referred to as "that unhappy island" by President John F. Kennedy--is often portrayed in a negative, faded frame, with destitute streets and abandoned American automobiles. From March 2009 to July 2010, photographer Michael Dweck aimed to capture the secret side of Castro's Communist capital, with all of its combustible energy, from the often overlooked yet alluring perspective of its artistic elite... Despite the nation's political strife and poor economic standing, Dweck's contemporary collection-made possible by his inside access to the country's ascending generation... is surprisingly rich.--Lenora Jane Estes "Vanity Fair "
While the more intriguing pictures in a book shot in Mr. Dweck's unchallenging soft-focus black-and-white style ("I didn't want to do documentary," he said. "National Geographic can do that") are those depicting the sons of revolutionaries disporting themselves with models and smoking fat cigars, gotcha shots are not the sole surprise.
"Ultimately, the book is a narrative of this privileged class," Mr. Dweck said. In its pretty, almost hapless way, the book depicts a curious warp in a great historical arc. Can it be that the end point of a violent revolution fomented to create a classless society is a crop of tropical Zoolanders and privileged "It" girls? The question, though not on the agenda of "Habana Libre," threads through it all the same.--Guy Trebay "The New York Times "
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As you read this book and take in the amazing shots of these beautiful people, you cannot help but change the way you look at Cuba. This is a tight group of perhaps 20 or 30 people who are living lives that do not seem possible under the current regime. The obvious intimacy Dweck holds with his subjects makes you feel like you are more than an observer, and when the regime finally ends and the new Cuba arises, you will fell like you have been there watching happen because you dallied among these primary players.
My love for the book centers around the photography. I was first attracted to the book because of the cover photo, which I later learned featured Rachel Valdez, a Cuban artist and painter. She is simply stunning, in a purely aesthetic way and in a strong, independent manner that makes you want to know her and her world. Her own painting appears later in the book, only reawakening that yearning. The reader gets the feeling that Rachel is truly a muse inspiring the creation of Dweck's work.
The collection of photographs, most rendered in black and white, are hypnotic. I found a number of photos I could imagine framing and placing in areas of my home or studio. However, as a collection, they told a deeper, more meaningful story of the life these people are living under the noses of the Communist Cuban regime. It is a well thought out, well told narrative, even before you begin to read the text.
Interviews conducted by William Westbrook give the reader a first hand account of the thoughts and ideas of the members of this elitist group. He talks with Fidel's and Che's sons, as well many others. The words of painter Rene Francisco sum up the ideas of this group: "When I was an art student they gave us everything. We had all our materials. Now the art students have nothing. They have four walls and time. No brushes. No paint. Nothing is provided to them. But I tell them: when you are an artist who has nothing, you have everything."
Even if I had never read forward, the interviews, and the afterward, although I was not able to resist, I would have understood what I was seeing, known the world they were living in, and grasped the exclusivity of what I was seeing. This is Dweck's "superpower," if you will. He instinctually places his camera into the heart of the event, much like a great movie director, and subsequently places his viewers there as well.
As I thumbed through the book for the first time, I was immediately reminded of movies like The Last Seduction or Body Double, created in the contemporary neo-noir style. The images appeared to be ready to jump from the photos, drive their expensive cars way to fast to the nearest night club, and create a night to remember. The stylization of the photographs was artistically done but never gave me the impression that they were altered or manipulated to offer anything but the truth about what the lens was seeing.
If you are not yet convinced that you should own this masterpiece, the photographs of which were recently selectively displayed at the Modernism Gallery in San Francisco, consider this: Dweck's books, The End and Mermaids, are now out of print and selling for over $3,000 according to a recent NY Times article. Like these two works before, Habana Libre has been released as a limited edition, with only 3,000 in print. Printed in Italy, no attention has been spared to the artistry and binding of this masterpiece. The colors of Cuba, red, white, and blue are pervasive throughout the book, down to the blue and white strips of fabric in the binding, itself.
The quality of the book itself is stunning. The paper is heavy, strong and feels like something God would want the Bible printed on. Just a quality production/print job.
The art is stunning. Each photo feels candid and warm. I have no interest in art but this is something I'll be showing to visitors of my home for decades, its just a great piece. My only image of cuba is from godfather 2, so getting insight into a niche lifestyle in cuba was refreshing.
The book just emits a cool vibe. I yearn to be part of it. Mr. Dweck captures an elite inner circle in such phenominal way. No photograph feels scripted, the book just flows.
Habana Libre is just a great piece of work. It's cool, hip and insightful. Kudos to Mr. Dweck for gaining access to a group of people in an un-accessible country.
island life with colorful personalities, et al.
That night, over coffee, we waded through the images, read a few of the interviews, and just drank it in. I don't know much about Cuba, but none of what we saw matched what we had imagined. That song from Rod Stewart kept going through my head: "Every Picture Tells A Story." That was what was happening in this book. Beautiful photographs of beautiful people living and laughing in a life surrounded by art and culture (yes, I see the irony) filled the pages.
The book is a feast for the eyes and will make you want to learn more about this hidden society existing inside Communist Cuba.