Havana Cuba

The fact that you are on the Internet right now puts you into one of the most fortunate groups of people on earth. If you’re reading this blog post on a device you own you move even further up the ladder of privilege. Have a regular roof over your head? Have you had a meal today that wasn’t part of a monthly ration of food? OMG. Go polish your crown because you are living like a king.

When I spend time in Cuba I come home with an overwhelming feeling of guilt. You might think that I should have an overwhelming emotion of gratitude but I don’t feel grateful at all when I come home from Cuba. All I feel is straight up guilt.  The guilt that fills me is the fact that I have so much and I’m doing so little with it. Cubans are some of the most resourceful people I have ever met. From photographers to painters to dancers to body builders to car mechanics, Cubans do more with nothing than any other group of people I’ve ever seen.

I’ll relate just a few of the many stories I’ve heard from the amazing Cuban photographers I’ve met:

• After looking at a portfolio of portraits from one local Havana photographer I commented on how beautifully he lit his portraits. He went on to tell me that all he has for lighting are pieces of cardboard with aluminum foil glued on one side. He then shared that most of his portfolio was shot with a Nikon D70 camera that an American photographer gave him several years ago. He then got his hands on an old Minolta lens. Not having any kind of adapter to mount the Minolta lens on his Nikon body he simply holds it against the body to take photos. “I have a very dirty sensor.”

Ramses Batista, a great Cuban photographer and guide, told me that there was a time he couldn’t afford to have his film developed so he and his friends would collect old developer and fix that hospitals and doctors’ offices used for developing x-rays and then use it to develop their film.  The resulting images were super contrasty and grainy but, as Ramses says, “We could keep shooting.”

• One of my favorite Cuban photographers, (one of my favorite photographers ever) Raul Cañibano told me that there was a time when things were so hard in Cuba there wasn’t any film. He simply had to stop taking photos. This went on for some time until he got his hands on a reel of expired movie film. He cut the film and rolled it into old film canisters so he could start shooting again.

• I purchased some woodblock prints from an artist in Havana. I commented on how nice the paper was. He told me how he collects phone books and newspapers and makes his own paper. He doesn’t make his own paper because it’s cool to do so. He makes his own paper so he can have his own paper. Period.

• This year our group visited a gym that is well known for the number of champion bodybuilders who train there. They made all of their equipment.

• I can’t tell you how many old American cars I’ve been in that have Mitsubishi motors and Kia dashboards or some other combination of parts and pieces from Korean cars to Russian trucks. Cubans call them hybrids. 🙂

I learned a phrase on this last trip. “La Lucha.” To Cubans it means the struggle. The wrestle. The war. The fight. The level of how deep this struggle runs can vary from person to person you meet on the street, but it seems to be a prevailing theme in the day to day life of the people I meet there. This isn’t just a mental struggle. It isn’t a struggle of the heart. It sure as hell isn’t struggling to get that new Nikon D4 or that new set of Profoto lights. It’s a day to day and day after day struggle to survive and get just one tiny step ahead of where you were the day before.

I’m sure most of us can look at aspects of our life, beat a fist on our chest, and cry “LA LUCHA!” I’m sure you can look at your bank account, and the stack of bills you are trying to avoid opening, and quietly whisper, “La lucha.” However, chances are your struggle and my struggle cannot reach the depths of hardship that many in this world reach. When I say, “La lucha.” and when a Cuban says, “La lucha.” mine carries less weight. That’s not to say our struggles aren’t real. That’s not to say that we aren’t allowed to cry or scream or get stressed out by our situations. Struggle is struggle.

What leaves me with this overwhelming feeling of guilt, though, is through their struggles they do so much. They create with such passion. They have so little and they pour every bit of themselves into whatever endeavour they are pursuing and they create such beautiful work from it. From the struggle beauty arises. That beauty is fought for. It seemingly blossoms from nothing into something amazing and noteworthy.

And here I am. With my multiple cameras, lenses, computers, lights, and all the trimmings of a professional photographer. I have a home and a studio. What am I doing with all that I have? Compared to my peers in Cuba, I ain’t doing shit with what I have.

I want to leave you with a few questions:

How many of you have a good bit of gear and are constantly chasing the next thing? Could you lose half of what’s in your camera bag and still make photos? What are you doing with it? What are you making? How hard are you fighting for that next image?

I want you to sit back and think for a moment. Are you pursuing photography (or art or music or writing or etc.) because it is simply an enjoyable way to spend some spare time or are you pursing the thing you do because you have to? Because it’s burning inside of you and if you don’t let it out somehow it will consume you? For me I’m some sort of mix of these two things. I love photography. I enjoy it. I’m starting to relax a little and put my feet up and enjoy the ride, but I realize that I’m becoming fat and lazy in my craft at times because I’m coasting on my experience. The good thing for me is that photography is a fire inside of me. Laziness seems to keep the flames covered a little but it begins to consume me and I have to create something. I have to get off my fat lazy ass and make something.

Please note that I’m not saying we must all bare our chests, burn our cameras, and become a Flagellant in order to be a great photographer. Or artist. Or musician. Or whatever. I’m not saying that enjoying your art for the pure sake of enjoying it is wrong, or that you aren’t worthy of doing this thing unless you are struggling for it. What I am saying is that you need to be grateful for what you have. You need to be glad you have that older model camera. When you feel Alien Bees just aren’t “professional” enough you need to shut your pie-hole and be thankful for your Alien Bees. And then you need to rock the shit out of them. You need to clear your mind for just a moment and realize there’s a photographer somewhere in the world who has a Nikon camera and a Minolta lens and some cardboard and they are kicking ass with that rig. They’d love to share their pictures with you but they don’t have an Internet connection. They have zero likes on Facebook.

If your lens mounts to your camera just stop and consider yourself wealthy for a moment. Now use that wealth to the greatest degree that you can. And then push yourself even further. I know we all want that next new thing. I know we all can grow and become better starting now with whatever resources we have. In fact, the more resources we have, it probably means it’s going to be more difficult for us to grow.

What’s keeping you from growing?


If you are interested in spending some time in Cuba, I cannot recommend the Santa Fe Workshops Cuba Program highly enough. They offer the most unique and seamless Cuban experience you can find.

Zack Arias

A full time commercial and editorial photographer, Zack shoots everything from bands to CEOs to ad campaigns. A gifted teacher and communicator, he has an uncanny ability to meet and connect with all types of people.

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  1. Tom Marriage

    Thanks for the kick in the reality. Sometimes forget to appreciate.


  2. Robin M.

    Well said, thanks!

  3. ivan

    Absolutely beautiful post there Zack!! Very inspiring, but above else, very humane. Everything you said can be applied to the whole consumeristic life we live. All silly frustrations, all greedy material cravings, ego boosting and all other irrelevant crap and distractions. In reality, most of us that read this blog have much more than we will ever use. Most of us don’t know shit about creating, art, photography, yet most of us will moan, crave for the next-gen camera or any other piece of digital equipment.

    I’ll quote you here: ” You need to clear your mind for just a moment and realize there’s a photographer somewhere in the world who has a Nikon camera and a Minolta lens and some cardboard and they are kicking ass with that rig. They’d love to share their pictures with you but they don’t have an Internet connection. They have zero likes on Facebook.”

    Beautifully written. And you know what – it’s not about poverty, it’s about passion and love that most of us have lost or never had. That man creates unique art with passion, for his very own existence, for himself and has surreal driving force. Yet most of us take and share crap on “a-social networks”. Who’s poor now?
    Take care and thanks. Ivan

    • Paul

      Wow how idealistic of you, and you shouldn’t use terms like “most of us” if you don’t know “most of us”.

      • Zack

        Please share Paul.


  4. analogcabin

    Great eye opener Zack.
    Honestly, in music this almost always the case. When I’m looking for/at gear, I’m rarely coming up with new songs.

  5. Dusana "Shana" Baltic

    yeah, the part about the laziness nails it for me.
    me, I was in Africa for nearly a month for the first time in my life. I came back a month ago. I am doing literally nothing (except sorting the pictures) since then because I feel I have to change something and I am still discovering…so this my “lucha” in the moment and I know what you mean with sayin, it doesn´t carry the same weight compared to people in cuba or wherever sayin it.
    I climbed the highest mountain in Zimbabwe together 40 thirteen-year-old-school children and their teachers, who amazed me so much. especially one of them, Arnold. He was following me all the way up, asking questions about every matter and observing how I take pictures. I had with me an old Canon 450D, a Fuji x100s, a Canon Powershot S100 and a fisheye Lomo film camera.
    I remember how it felt, when he asked me: “How many cameras do you have?” “How expensive was this camera?”
    I also felt guilty and uncomfortable. On the way down, I gave him my DSLR and he was in his element..it was the first time he had a camera in his hands and he took pretty amazing pics. The way how he was handling the camera was incredible. I trusted to 100% that he wouldn`t let it fall down. It`s hard to explain, but he seemed so confident with that camera and he learned only by watching me taking photos on this day. I´m looking forward to send his teacher some copies of his pictures..it would be amazing to send him a camera as a present too..I am looking for a way.
    that was a long text.sorry…it was just the perfect motivation when reading your expierience.
    have a nice day…
    regards, shana

  6. Trevor s

    100 percent agree, Zack. Thanks for the clarity only reality can bring.

    Zack, do you have contacts down there where we can send our used/new equipment? I have a new camera I don’t use for instance and would love for someone in Cuba to have it.

    Let me know as I would be more than happy to ship.



  7. Trevor s

    Actually, in thinking about this more….

    I am completely taken by the idea of starting a project where we re-issue used or u wanted gear to struggling photogs around the world. If we got together and guys like you, Zack, used your contacts in the industry, we could really get this going.

    How amazing would it be to get gear into the hands of struggling photographers like those in Cuba? Think of the results! Think of the positive impact to our art!

    How…I am really pumped about this and would love to be a part of this.

    Okay back to more thinking about how this can be done.

  8. Marvin J

    Inspirational and thought provoking. That’s why I follow you Zack. Thanks and keep it coming.

  9. Michael Comeau

    The photo equipment industry is largely built on FUD – the fear, uncertainty, and doubt that you’re missing out unless you buy X, Y, and Z.

    Meanwhile, take a look at an Irving Penn or Albert Watson monograph and you’ll see what old gear with world-class imagination can do.

    It’s clear what most of us need to work on…

  10. Patrick

    great post. thank you.

  11. Owain Shaw

    An interesting read, very thought-provoking … thanks for writing and sharing. Also, thanks for the tip on a cheap-ass reflector – totally doing that!

  12. Manny

    Cuba is one of my life-long dreams to visit, even if I have mixed feelings about it. I have some distant family there, but have never met them or spoken with them. My late grandparents were from Cuba. My grandfather was in the Cuban navy and they fled in the ’50s to come to America. They never really spoke about it, but from what they shared with me life was very hard. They even lost family to a firing squad. They were very influential to me in a lot of aspects. I want to photograph the areas they lived in one day.

  13. Richard Wintle


    I fear I have little of import to say other than to nod my agreement – and thank you for pointing us at Raul Cañibano. Fabulous work.

  14. Mikey

    Nice sentiments . But really, consider yourself lucky, put that guilt aside and move on.

  15. steve

    Thanks! That was excellent.

  16. Jay Scott

    You have given us a very good reality check, Zack.

    By no means do I feel like I have paid nearly as many dues as the people of Cuba but I do try to remember the days of having bare-bones equipment, learning my craft and making something with minimal gear. Even then it was more gear than in mismatched body and lens. I just try to respect those who are kicking butt with what they have.

    I’ve never been afraid of pain or discomfort, struggling to make something worth while makes it that much more worthwhile, but I find myself frustrated on the days that I do have a burning desire to make something and find my health or disability getting in the way. It’s not an uncommon story. There are plenty of very skilled and passionate creators out there who don’t just have to struggle against their art but against their disability or illness or family emergency or what ever other distraction takes them away from what they really want to be doing.

    Like you, I have a roof over my head, a decent vehicle, plenty of food to eat and a kit that a lot of people would love to have. Sometimes that comfort gets in the way of creating something with greater impact because of the heart not put into it. Still, I would give up everything but a body and a 50mm if those days of inability to complete something because of my disability could be taken away.

    Welcome to the real world. At least on those bad days I don’t also have to struggle to stay warm or eat and can spend my down time planning the next big shot.

    • Zack

      Wow. Thanks for continuing the conversation Jay.


  17. Dan Hawk

    Love this post. I believe you have achieved your goal with it as well as it leaves me wanting to go out and shoot.

  18. Jill Merriam

    Kudos on your comments. I can relate. Your post brought back some memories of the first time I went to Cuba (I’lve been there twice) — in Havana, needing a flashlight to get to a paladar or climbing up a crumbling staircase to get to some Cubans we were visiting. And being in Trinidad as darkness set in. NO streetlights… Then upon my return to the states, driving home from the airport, the highway and sky were lit up like………. Such waste. It’s difficult to describe the sensation I felt seeing that.

    I still get shivers and tear up when I look at my photographs from Cuba and think about all we have, how entitled we think we are — and what the Cuban people are like and how they live. Your photographs in this post are all wonderful! I am most appreciative that you’ve shared these thoughts so that those who have not experienced the Cuban culture can gain some understanding and perspective.

    And I’d love to share my photographs with you. Hope you might take a minute some time to see my portfolios: “Crumbling Elegance” (www.jillmerriam.com). Cheers! —–j.

    • Denis Kelly

      Jill, This is beautiful work. I was concerned at first that it was going to be too manipulated and stylized but you struck a balance with fine straight photographs. The details of human integration in society with “crumbling elegance”, high density, vibrant and faded color, life and back ground matter, all spoke eloquently.

      Thank you too Zack for your challenging expression of inadequacy in using the many talents we possess. I’ll try to remember the fellow with the Minolta lens held up to his D70. I’ve been tempted to sell some of my Nikon gear and buy a Fuji but the continuous AF on the XT-1 was so jerky I found it nauseating. I instead bought a propack of film for my Rolleicord. It is just as quiet and lovely in one’s hands.

      Peace, Denis

      • Jill Merriam

        Denis — Wow! Thank you so much for your lovely words about my work. Best——–j.

  19. Maria

    Great post Zack. Thanks for sharing and inspiring.

  20. Jim Seith

    Thanks, Zack. Dead smack perfect. Load the Suburban and come see us.


    • Zack

      Will do!!!


  21. Steve Mackie

    You do more for photographers with blogs like that than any tech Nikon/Canon/Fuji et. al. could ever muster.

  22. Javier Fontanella

    Hi Zack, as always great words of encouragement and common sense, as a cuban living in the US for the past 12 years I feel reflected in your anecdotes. When I go there to see my parents and friends I always return giving even more value to the “little” that I’ve been able to achieve. Compare to my countrymen I’m centuries ahead but I try to remember where I come from and the survival philosophy embedded in each of us. When some of my friends are looking into upgrading their mid “2000s” cars I always remember my father’s 1952 Chevy (with the original engine still running and a mileage that is imposible to guess) I look to my 2004 Dodge Neon and I say to my self “mmmm hey buddy, you can still give another 5 years of fight” and in the meantime I save a few thousands ;).
    Finishing my comment here you’ll find a gallery from a colleague who has been studying for years the cuban “inventiveness” or what he defines as “Architecture of Necessity”. Take a minute and you’ll notice what the cuban quest for improving living conditions means.

  23. David Taranza

    This post is so true. We don’t treasure the things we have (until we lose them) and often unconsciously look for the noise instead of signal. Respect to the Cubans. And, thank you for this encouragement, these things can’t be stressed enough.

  24. David

    Great article. I was in Cuba last month and had 4 days in Havana which was an excellent place to photograph but at the same time a very sad place with decaying buildings and signs of poverty. The people were friendly despite what they don’t have in relation to us. It truly is a thought provoking place and really hope that one day things will turn around for them.

  25. Ron Mann

    Poverty most assuredly sucks, but it can compensate those that survive it with a depth of spirit not often found among the more fortunate. Money buys ease, too much, buys laity.

    To say something meaningful requires meaning. To create something thoughtful, requires thought. To evoke passion in others, requires strong passion within one’s self. Gear will never substitute for any of these things. All it can do is provide you with a few million red, green and blue dots.

    Thanks for sharing your experiences in Cuba and reminding us all about what truly lies behind a great photograph.

  26. Daf

    I often remember the gist of what you said on some past video (I think Creative live) about becoming an expert with the equipment that you have and not to chase the next big camera/lens/light too much.

    I however rather enjoy finding out, researching, discovering, trying new equipment – I’m both a (non-pro) photographer but also a tech head. It makes me happy.
    But combined with what you’ve said – I try to enjoy that for what it is – and not see it as a requirement or excuse in photography.

  27. Dave Wilson

    Wize words indeed Mr Zack. It’s surprising what you can achieve with a small amount of gear
    I actually only own 1 camera. A used Xpr01. I own no other photographic gear what so ever. Less is more as they say.

  28. Marald Bes

    Great post Zack.

    Thank you for the link to Raúl Cañibano. I was blown away by his pictures. Bresson like and colorful yet it’s B/W.

    I’ve recently visited Cuba and loved it. Amazing people and a beautiful country.

    I had the over-luxurious choice, to either bring a dlsr with lots of extras (weight) or just a small rx100m2 that would fit in my pocket. RX it was. Got more interesting pictures, because I had more time for my subject.

    @TREVOR S , great idea. Can I help?

  29. Troy Chelsberg

    Well said, Zack.
    It’s amazing what someone can accomplish without the bucks and trucks.

  30. Ved

    Great post Zack…an eyeopener…These are some of the things that we know and subconciously aware of but for some reason take for granted…until we remember at the very same time somewhere around the globe there are millions who are way less fortunate…

  31. Jorge CLARK

    Hi Zack!!!
    Not words to thank you for such an amazing blog !!!
    I’m Cuban!!! What else could I say!!! Everything just falls a the true curtains of reality and life !!!
    What can I say, coming from Cuba, and using just a 2 mp camera without WB and things alike and don’t even think about lighting!!! And delivery a decent job that comes with creativeness !!!!
    Now here living in Miami, full of gear to choose from. One thing drive me attention? People (photographers ) sometimes (most of the time ) are mediocre photographers full of gears and braggings.
    As a simple photographer making your way not even up, I realize that in comparison to Cuba ( where all craftsmen) help each other to improve in live and we gave a hand each other to move on. Here is all the opposite, photographers trying to step in each other heads trying to probe they are better than someone else.
    We don’t need to probe better than anyone else, better gears don’t make us better photographers but in our society people are driving their skills not about our craft but more about lenses.
    I don’t own an AB, not any other pro lighting, I just own a camera flash ( that I use as off camera ) lol I’m proud of my craft yes. But I can’t tell how many times clients and photographers don’t take me seriously because I don’t own fashion lighting equipments.
    I will probably keep writing freely here until one day I keep my words into your attention. Yes I can proudly say that you are for me my Joe Macnally !!!! You are a bible to me, not because photography ( which I love) but because your honesty.

    There’re so many things wrong in our craft nowadays that I dare to say we are going back in photography not for improving but killing out craft.
    I don’t pretend someone to understand this lines. But I have lived in both worlds Cuba / USA. I have experienced as said both. I would love to have the fraternity of Cuba here together with the amazing sources of resources photography posses here.
    Nice blog !!!
    Jorge Clark

  32. Alex

    Hi Zack,

    I’m new to your website and new to photography (started April this year). I love your post. I can see photography inspired your article that applies to almost everything in life. I also think of some delicious meals I’ve had in developing countries with very limited cooking equipment and ingredients.

    I think it’s great to live with a daily feeling of gratitude for what we have and to focus on what we can do with what we have rather than getting caught up in the consumerism trap.

    I have a Nikon D3100 and a Nikkor 50mm 1.4 lens. I think some camera snobs would look down at my entry level camera, but I’m still speechless at some of the photos that it has taken with that lens. I think the only thing limiting me is my own creativity and ability to visualise / find the shot. I feel like some of my favourite shots are simply that I had the camera in my hand, switched on at the right time and was kind of lucky with the framing / light / subject etc. I see how many possibilities there are in photography when I look at others work and I know my basic camera can deliver enough technical quality to replicate most of these ‘art styles’

    But still, despite all that I have an occasional moment of thinking, what if I could get the new Canon EOS 5D MK III, wouldn’t my pictures be amazing! Then I recover from my crazy thoughts and remember that it’s walking the streets with my camera in hand / switched on that get’s the shots, not a better sensor or even more manual control!

    On how you feel when you return from Cuba, I would never feel bad, my experience is that people I have met in poorer countries than the UK sometimes have much happier lives, more social interaction, less distractions from being alive.

    Looking forward to enjoying more of your blog in the future as a new photographer 🙂


  33. Vali

    “Things you own end up owning you!”.. the more things you own the more things end up owning you!

  34. Ken Jancef

    Great post Zack!!!!

    I am a sports photographer, and I often run into people saying they wish they had my gear, and I always run into others saying the same. But at the same time I am ALWAYS thankful for what I have, and I try to share that with anyone I can.

    I was shooting a high school football game a few years ago, and a boy, who must have been maybe 10 years old, said “Wow, that’s a nice camera! I love taking pictures.” In talking to his parents, they said he didn’t have a camera, so with their permission I let him take pictures of the game with my camera. What made it better was that his big brother was playing in the game, and he got to shoot pics of him. And he did VERY well! You should have seen him go! Like one other poster here said, it was like he was in his element. At that point, what I was shooting didn’t really matter anymore…

    I was able to burn the pics on a disc for him after the game. I am hoping that this inspired him to pursue photography, and I’m the type that if I had an extra camera, I would have given it to him.

    Sorry for the long post, but the point is…. yea, I might be in a better situation than others, but there is always someone in a worse situation. I try to give what I can to whoever I can…

    You’ve got a new follower Zack!!!! Rock on!!!


    • Zack

      Great story Ken. Thank you for sharing!


  35. Ronen Goldman

    This is an important post. Seriously, thanks for this Zack.

  36. Jhon Monster


  37. Rey Cuba

    You know Zack, I grew up in a really dense part of the old havana city, I was lucky enough to had my brothers and together we jump, scream and play all the time, because our mother doesn’t let us go out only for school purposes. We are three boys and my sister, the males all had only one pair of shoes and when we get more than 15th years and started going on parties we exchange our clothes and shoes between ourselves to avoid going with the same from the previous week.

    Now my brothers live in USA as many Cubans do. I look at my tiny but own apartment and find out that I had 10 times what I use to had when I was a kid, I had never stop fighting but I completed understand when you said that laziness could reach you, as I had feel this before.

    I talked to my daughters and explained why it was so hard before and why still is hard but a little bit less than before, I fought hard but not enough and this is something I should not forget about.

    Thanks for this wake up call, I was not able to talked to you while you were in Havana, may be next time.

    CU around


    • Zack

      Hey Rey!

      I tried to login to find your contact information when I was in Cuba but couldn’t get in and the Internet was on for a minute… then off for a day. Then on for a minute… then off for a day. You know how that goes. 🙂 I did want to meet up. Next time I’ll have it written down so I don’t have to rely on finding it online.


      • Rey Cuba

        Hi Zack I understand you perfectly well. See you next time.

        A big hug


  38. Rey Cuba

    Sorry Sack as I was writing I forgot the most important idea who came to my mind as I was reading, finding people who care enough, understand enough and try enough is not the common denominator this days, finding your respect for the people in Cuba is something I will always treasure.

    Had a nice blog.


  39. Kaisa

    I just love the way your write! Because it’s not always that photographers manage to communicate in written and spoken word in the way that it conveys a clear message and yet does not sound condescending (ah, maybe I have just had some really odd conversations with people who make an income with their photography and drawn some unfair conclusions). Anyhow, thank you for sharing more than just great images!

  40. David Aaron

    inspiring words, zack. Thanks for the kick in the nuts. 😉

  41. Christopher

    Maybe your best post ever. Thanks.

  42. Steve

    Thanks Zach; great post! Makes me so appreciative and challenges me to keep my passion for photography fresh and vital. When I take inventory in my mind of the photographic gear I have accumulated over the years I realize what it could mean to share the gear I no longer use with some photographer who would treasure it.

    Cuba has been #1 on my list of travel destinations for a couple years. I will look into Santa Fe workshops. Are you aware of any way to possibly share photo gear to photographers in Cuba or even elsewhere?

  43. Devorah

    Zack, like I said when you announced the trip — having grown up in Miami with so many Cubans whose parents had to leave that once-beautiful island, I can’t bear to go there until both Castro brothers are dead and their country can once again breathe and LIVE. All the tourism they’re getting now just enriches the system that’s keeping the people down.

  44. Bob Stewart

    Provide me with the name and address of the individual with the D70 and Minolta lens and I’ll personally send him a 18-70mm lens that I used on my D70 but no longer have any use for. No charge.

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  46. Tauseef

    Well it is amazing that at a point while reading this post again today I had a cup of tea in my hand and I forgot to take a sip until I was done reading the post.
    What stops me from growing are my own excuses and the ginormous ego that some of us have. I realised this a while back and I ate my ego (“referencing the X-photographers’ talk show”) and also I have tried monitoring the excuses. It has made me a better person and a better photographer too. Thank you Zack

  47. Jakob

    Well said. I love the positive spirit you often meet ind Cuba – despite the obvious hardships and lack of resources. Indeed there is no way of buying your self into happiness or even creativity. Both takes hard work and a willingness to get the most out of every moment – and with regards to photography – the gear you have in your hands and not the flashy stuff you think you need.

    One note though: yes, we should all appreciate what we have, but don´t fall into the trap of being scared into gratefulness of a middle class life just because someone else have less than you. Distribution of resources in the world are really f**** up. This need to change in order for everyone to get a decent life when it comes to resources.

  48. Michael Falkous

    Thank you for sharing those words Zack. You always do a great job of teaching to make the most of what you have. I always wish that I had a better camera than what I have and a constantly lusting for something better. It’s about time I appreciate what I have a spend more time working on my craft and learning to make the most of the gear I have and start taking great pictures and not just mediocre pictures with them. Cheers.

  49. Mike


    I’m already headed to Cuba in a couple of months, would have loved to go on your trip but I obligated for my current trip before your upcoming trip was announced. I know I’ll be visiting at least one photo studio. If I were able to take some extra gear to leave behind, do you have any suggestions on what to take or what might be needed most?



  50. David Julian


    Thank you for speaking the words I’ve been feeling since going to Cuba recently. You nailed it eloquently.

    I heard similar inspiring stories from the guys at Fototeca, and from Cartier-Bresson-like Cañibano when he spoke so eloquently to us. His work just kills me,(italicized) and he’s as humble as they come. And Jose, and Carlos…
    I returned to our high-falutin’ Havana hotel every night with my fat kit of shiny toys and felt like a poser compared to these amazing Cubans. They really inspired me to pare down and think bigger. Their passion is unmatched.
    You probably met Chang, and the twins too. Unbelievably talented.

    Heading back in a few weeks to reconnect and continue my work, this time light and agile with an X-T1 and a few primes, plus a suitcase of stuff for the locals and photogs.

    To anyone headed to Cuba:
    Look in your gear closet and bring what you don’t use to give away. Someone in Havana is waiting for these gifts, and it could positively affect many lives.

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