HAVANA STREETS” by Joseph Purdam

I believe I shot my first film frame when I was 3 years old on my Grandfathers Pentax 35mm.  Apparently I was hooked, taking any opportunity to borrow the camera’s that passed in and out of my life.  Having spent time living in America and India as a child, then in Japan and Canada in my early twenties and i’ve certainly kept the love for travel burning strongly throughout my life.

For this specific trip my brother and I were planning around three or four weeks in Mexico and two in Cuba.  Our itinerary was fluid but we wanted to make sure we travelled as much of Cuba as we could in the time.

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Freshly painted buildings in Havana (Image by Joseph Purdam)
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Feeling bigger than you look, Havana (Image by Joseph Purdam)
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Brightly coloured corner vendor in Havana (Image by Joseph Purdam)
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Havana Street scape (Image by Joseph Purdam)

Starting in Havana our first Casa Particular host spoke zero english, not one word and illuminated his quaint apartment by crossing two live wires hanging out of the wall. And on the first night’s quest for potable drinking water we were accosted for many things other than “aqua” I can tell you.

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Some friends gathered to get an old car back on the road (Image by Joseph Purdam)
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A Local Cuban taking a break out the front of his shop in Havana (Image by Joseph Purdam)

My fascination with travel photography I believe stems from the same place as others before me.  The desire to understand the world from many and varied perspectives, to see how others live & how they view the world and interact with those around them. I use photography as a means to reflect on perspective, and when shared it’s an opportunity to give others an aperture, through which to view glimpses of the world in a way they otherwise may not.

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A mural by Committees for the Defense of the Revolution, Cienfuegos (Image by Joseph Purdam)
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A local artist paints portraits late into the night, Cienfuegos (Image by Joseph Purdam)
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Young mother carries son through the streets of Havana (Image by Joseph Purdam)

We quickly found our feet in Cuba though, focusing on photography and music.  With regular Cuban salsa lessons, frequenting Casa de la musica and ruetta evenings. We travelled from Havana down to Cienfuegos and Trinidad, experiencing typical multiple car failures and adventures that we were hoping for.

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A vegetable vendor on a back street in Havana (Image by Joseph Purdam)
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The lovely mother of our casa particular host in Cienfuegos (Image by Joseph Purdam)
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Guard dog in training, Cienfuegos (Image by Joseph Purdam)

I learnt spanish as rapidly as I could, firstly learning the basics but quickly progressing to be able to graciously enquire if I could take a person’s photo plus the normalities of  the basics of polite conversation starters.

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A man cycles through Cienfuegos (Image by Joseph Purdam)
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Something tells me this car wouldn’t make it half way up the speedo nowadays (Image by Joseph Purdam)
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Humble mode of transport through Cienfuegos (Image by Joseph Purdam)

As a child I was fascinated with classic cars, mainly american 50s to late 70s and some european cult favorites.  Naturally Cuba was like being a kid in a candy store, the abundance of character makes it hard to take bad photos really.  I wanted to focus on genuine, candid portraiture of both the people and cars of Cuba.  Paying respect to the resplendent colours and textures that revealed themselves at every turn.  I did take some B/W film but found it hard to shoot in such a colourful environment. I mainly stuck to my all time favorite colour negative Kodak Ektar 100, and some Kodak Portra for good measure.

With me I had a Voigtlander Bessa R3a with a planar 50mm and a Contax T2 (yeah, I know, like every other 35mm film traveler – but this proved to be a perfect pair). I haven’t spent much time with RF 35mm setups but I found this a dream to shoot, and compact.

Portrait of a man who’s seen it all. Paseo del prado, Havana (Image by Joseph Purdam)
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A local man sits outside his shop in Trinidad (Image by Joseph Purdam)
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A car awaiting repair and a new set of wheels in Havana (Image by Joseph Purdam)
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Cuban woman observes the colourful behaviour on the street from her doorway. Havana (Image by Joseph Purdam)

My photographic journey started on film, but I largely shot digitally when I was doing it commercially, and then up until a few years ago I fell back in love with analogue capture. The genuine nature that I feel comes through with an analogue image is a huge part of why I choose to shoot film.  When shooting equipment i’m comfortable with and film I know well, it feels like an extension of me and the reliance on “trust” becomes more apparent, that is “trusting in myself.”  Allowing me to translate my feeling and interpretation of a scene fluidly into an image, a capture of that moment.

As I continue to travel and shoot, shoot and travel, I’m shooting my next few series on 6×6 and 645. I hope to share these with you in the future. I’d like to thank John for the opportunity, and the community for providing inspiring images and stories.

About Joseph Purdam

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After spending a fair portion of my young life as a photographer, I am now focused on VR/360 content production professionally.  Photography is no longer a job, but it has even more meaning in my life now than ever.  Shooting is now more about the process, the love, and being present.  I am forever chasing that last glimpse of light at dusk, when the clouds light up.  Or that candid moment when a portrait subject really reveals themselves to you.  I appreciate the luxury of shooting what I want, when I want.  If I was a film I’d be Velvia 50.

Feel free to follow my general photo blog via instagram @jose_purdam or my new film only landscape blog @raining grain