Gathering Cuban photographers all over the world

De Aquí y de Allá: With Amanda Siquier

Cuban Lenses United welcomes the podcast by Daniel Ernesto Martínez, interviewing Cuban photographer Amanda Siquier
Photo by Amanda Siquier, via De Aquí y de Allá.

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Officially welcome to an idea I’ve had for some time in mind, but for reasons that many of you know I could not carry out. Unfortunately the internet in Cuba sometimes does not help when one wants to do things. Now the circumstances have changed and here we are with this idea called “De Aquí y de Allá” (From Here and There), where I will be inviting every week a Cuban artist, a photographer, who can be both here and there.

And well, to start the first chapter of this podcast, we start with Amanda. Amanda and I have known each other for a while, since the pandemic, right Amanda? 

Yes, we created a group, a group of artists, and that’s how it all started.  They lived in the provinces and I lived in Havana and we never met until one day when I was working on the street and I met you and Victor. 

That’s right, that’s right. I remember that during the pandemic we created a group, a spectacular group, where there were many talented people. They are still there.

I know. 

The thing is that after the pandemic, life has returned to its rhythm and everyone is working on their own things. But the group is there, and every time someone needs something, they write it down. That’s the good thing. 

That’s right. 

So, Amy, tell me, or tell them, where were you born, where are you from? 

Well, I was born in Cuba, obviously (chuckles). In a neighborhood that everyone knows, because it’s had a bad reputation for a long time. It’s called La Timba in Havana, in El Vedado. It’s a pretty central neighborhood, close to Paseo, close to Zapata, close to the main avenues. And there’s not much more to say. And I moved here about four or five months ago. Now I live in the US, in Miami.

Yeah, so tell us: how or why did photography come into your life? 

Danny, that’s a very long story. 
 
We’re all here to hear your story. 

I don’t know when it came to me, but it was a mix of many things that took me photography. One of them was a neighbor that I had, who is now in the United States, you know, everyone leaves. And she was a photographer. She hasn’t done it for many years, but she picked me up to take her photos. So it always caught my attention. It was something that motivated me a lot, you know, since I was a child. Well, my mom always had disposable film cameras. She was always taking pictures of me. All my childhood, I have a lot of photos and videos from my childhood. It is unbelievable when I see them now. I mean, she had no idea what she was doing, but she took good pictures, you know? Family photos, I love them. I say that there is a work behind it, you know? Of love, of sensitivity. And then, the final touch was when I had a couple many years ago, one of my first relationships, and I was somehow linked to many artists, right? Most of them, let’s say 90% were musicians, but there were photographers. And there was a friend of that group who was a photographer, and he always caught my attention. I always liked to paint, to draw, everything that had to do with art. Somehow, that person I was with motivated me and told me, why don’t you try photography? It seemed pretty hard to me to start in photography, because I just left a career. I left a university degree before starting in photography: Mathematics. We’re not going to talk about that (chuckles). And so, yes, it was a pretty radical change. And at first I took it as something very difficult buying a camera was something too big for me, something too expensive. But in the end, from here and there, with a little help from my mom, a little help from my dad I saved up and started with my first camera without having any idea of photography. 
 
What was your first camera? 

My first camera? My first camera was a Canon 450D. I mean, throw it back. And I’ll tell you something. It was a Canon 450D that worked well. The battery was swollen when I bought it, because I couldn’t afford anything better. Also, I had a problem with the charger. The 110V power supply didn’t work. So, the person I was with helped me install something that goes into the computer so that the power supply was 12V. No, I was like a madman, going everywhere I could. And it was a single battery and a single charger. A computer to make a 12 volt power supply. No, I was walking around with a battery and a charger. Obviously, that camera started to get old, and that’s when the Canon T6 came. I thank my brother very much because he helped me a lot with the photography, he sent me equipment, cameras, at least he sent them to me. I did other things like tripod, but he helped me a lot with the cameras because we all know that for Cubans it’s quite complicated to buy a new camera. 

It’s a challenge. 

And then on a trip to Cuba, he showed up with a Sony Alpha 7. I had no idea that camera existed. And from the first moment I picked it up, I said, this is the best thing that’s ever happened to me. 

It was a tremendous leap. 

Yes, I remember he said, I’m going to give it to you, I’m going to leave it. Well, my eyes got wt, so I can go. 

So I had a question here, what was your favorite equipment, your favorite kit with which you always work, camera plus lens? We already agree that it is the Sony Alpha 7, right? 

The Sony, I have not had a better one, yes I have had a better one in my hands, yes, I mean, I have not had a better one, my own, but well, I’ve had the best Sony in my hands. I’ve had the best Sony in my hands. But until now, the Sony A7, and I’m telling you the truth, is the best I’ve had in my hands. I’m not saying that maybe it’s the best for everyone. Everyone looks for the camera they want and is in tune with what they want to do. But I can tell you that more than the Sony, the 50mm. Yeah. All my photos are made with a 50mm. All of them. I sold the body of my camera before coming here. My mom convinced me to not sell the lenses. I have them here, she sent them to me. They bought me a body later on and I used those same lenses. And then the 50mm, I brought it. It’s with me here now. 

The 50mm is the key to everything, it’s like that. 

Fifty, it’s like that. And well, a light can’t be missing. A continuous light, in fact I don’t like flash, I don’t like it. I mean, I’m from creating an environment, you know? 

There’s two of us. 

At the moment. And a light that is a flash, you know, that works, the light that we are going to see right now is a thousandth of a second and it doesn’t create the same environment, you know? 

Yes, I understand you perfectly. So now, the question I have for you, the next question is quite common to photographers and artists in general. What are your main references in photography? 

I have a lot of photographers that are great photographers, that study, that go to academies, that come to the books, that are important, the rules, the composition, but my main reference are people like you and me. When I started in the world of photography, the people who really motivated me and were an inspiration in the first place, and in fact, I went through many processes, were those people I had there at my hand, those people who helped me. I’m talking about Alejandro Mesa, my first camera handling teacher. I’m talking about Daniel Arévalo, who taught me a little about editing. I’m talking about you, you know, we were connected, I helped you, you helped me. I’m talking about Alejandro Menéndez, he was one of the first photographers I met. I was talking about people who were closer to my circle and not people who were mainly in books. I think that’s a different situation. Obviously, I have people that at first, when I saw them at school, I liked them a lot. For example, one of the first people I saw was Anka Suravleva. And for me, her photography was one of the biggest motivations. Because of the colors, the object, the figure itself. I loved her process. I loved what she did. And I think I did learn from her work. There have been others, but I think the main inspiration has come from people close to me. 

Really, your work is spectacular. I’ve always admired what you do, Especially those portraits. Every time you post a picture on Instagram, I opened my mouth and say, No, it’s amazing. Personally, it has happened to me a bit like it has happened to you. I started doing photography in 2019 and then the pandemic hit. My main reference, I told you, that Chilean group of art, for me it was like, wow, here are tremendous artists and many of you served me as a reference. Now I would like you to tell us, Amy, what is the central theme of your work and why did you choose that theme? 

Well, before I forget, I wanted to say something about the subject of reference, I will not speak about that person because he was not photography in itself. I can say that my stepfather was a very important reference. Very important. He is a plastic artist. I don’t know if you have followed his work. 

Yes, of course. 

But above all, he paints. He is a painter. He feels more like a painter. And I, since I was 15, which is the most complicated stage because you start looking for yourself at that moment, between 15 and 21. He came into my life and somehow pushed me, right? To go for the arts. And it was always very demanding. And you know, I really appreciate it, because he motivated me every time, like I’m a perfectionist, like I’m not satisfied with anything. He’s exactly the same. He was always asking me more and more. I know that today, maybe I haven’t given him what he wanted, because he is very conceptual, very, you know, he is more complex. Maybe I haven’t achieved it, but I know that he feels like he did and he is doing his job well. I had thought that because he’s not a photographer, but…

I always say that influences can come from everywhere. Influences, even from music, from a song you listen to, can influence what you do and what you want to do. 

Exactly. Well, you asked me about the central theme of my work. The central theme of my work, I think it’s pretty obvious. My photography is not very complex. On one occasion someone told me that it was very academic, even though I had not studied at all in academia. I did many things self-taught. I only did camera handling and a little bit of appreciation and composition. And then I learned everything else by heart. And really, the subject I deal with is quite simple. It seems purely aesthetic, nothing more, many people have told me that my work is very aesthetic, but you can’t meet everyone’s expectations. There are people who tell you that it is a very dark, very sad work. Others say it is very simple, very linear, very banal, superficial. I mean, each one has their own point of view. And really, my work, I think it is. It’s aesthetic, I think it’s simple. But above all things, I think it has a bit of a sorority. How can I explain it? I am a woman, obviously, and my central work, as you have seen, as you have appreciated, the majority, 90% are women. There are very few men in my work. It’s not that I don’t do it, but I think that the only work I did for a man was for an actor. And it was because he somehow knew how to free himself better, or maybe act better than you wanted to see. But on the other hand, the women who were girls, you know, like me, there was no one beautiful or anything from the other world. They were friends. So I started with friends, please come, let me take a picture of you. And then it started to grow and grow. I tried one, I liked it, and it started, and more, and more, and more, and more. And I was suddenly writing on the internet to girls I knew a little further away, hey, you know, I want to take a picture of you. Because maybe I liked their look, I liked their eyes, I liked it. And if you look, they’re not happy pictures. Because in some way they reflect a little of what is in me, maybe of fears, maybe of traumas, maybe of difficult situations at that moment. It’s what I say, each one of them is me. So it’s reflected a little bit of me, basically. So you’re not going to see any woman laughing. You’re not going to see any woman, even if it seems a little attractive and a little sensual, I don’t show nudity. So it’s complicated. Thre is a limit I have set. 

Let me tell you that the majority of those who, like you and me, are self-taught, and the majority of people who start in photography always rely on friends. And it is something very interesting. It was something I was talking about, I don’t remember with who, that photographing a man is very difficult, no matter if the photographer is a man or a woman. Men are many times more embarrassed to be in front of the camera than women, and that is very interesting. 

Exactly, Women, emotionally, let themselves be shown more of all those problems they have. Like, they know how to channel it. They know how to show it. They’re not afraid. They’re more empathetic, you know? And that’s what happened to me. I had my friends, well, in fact, I have one that everyone knows me, I identify automatically for her, which is Ana Laura, she’s one of the girls I’ve photographed the most. And she’s a pretty close friend, in fact, of my circle of friends. And if you look at Laura, this girl has some pretty hard fictions. I don’t know if you noticed. Her look is like a pretty serious look and at the same time pretty sad. It’s deep. And I always pick Laura for the most depressing photos. For the hardest ones, there’s Ana Laura. And I really appreciate it because I didn’t know. I had no idea how to do portraits. I knew I wanted to do it, but I didn’t know how to do it. And all those friends that appear on my feed, most of them I know, some more simply, more personal, others are more distant. But all of them, what I wanted to look for, I have found them all. From Ira, who is one of the girls I liked to portrait the most, to Ana Laura, you know? There are many, many women that I have portrayed. 
 
Tell us your favorite place to take pictures. 

My favorite place to take pictures. Look, I started using my grandmother’s house to take pictures. My grandmother’s house is a wooden house, which is also very old. It’s painted in blue, and it looks like a movie house. I started there because I didn’t have space in my house to build a studio. It was impossible. My house in Cuba is a very small house. I was born there, I grew up there, and well, no one had ever moved me or changed the country, much less until 4 or 5 months ago. And my grandmother gave me a room, because my grandmother’s house has three rooms, she gave me a room to make a space. I’m talking about my grandmother’s house leaks through some places and you had to run to the lights to cover it up because if not you would lose the equipment the house was made of wood and tile and I would say that that’s my favorite place because that’s where I did 90% of my photos I did them there in that little house of blue wood my grandma’s house, you know? But in general, I can tell you that my favorite place is a private place. I don’t like it when there’s people around me while I photograph. I can’t stand it. I can’t see more than three people in the same room. I understand people who do documentary photography, who do street photography, who go out on the street and take pictures in the moment. That’s why I never liked it. Right here where you see me, I’m nervous because I’ve always had problems talking to a group, to be able to face a group, I mean, as private as possible, as intimate as possible. And basically, that’s it. My favorite place is a place that is intimate, a place that is closed, with a continuous light, everything is very whole, everything is very intimate. 

Yes, of course. It happens to me a bit, that we get married to a place and there we do all our work. It happens to me a bit the same. So, you answered several questions there, but I would like to know, tell us a little bit about your creative process, how you choose the set, how you choose the light you want to use. 

Well, let’s see, some photographs, not all of them, I mean, I’m not going to tell you, I plan them all and create a concept and a composition. No way. In many, I make a sketch (I am not good at drawing). For instance, the photo of the woman with the cone, I made a sketch, more or less, of what I wanted. And then I made the photographs. There is also a photo of Ana Laura, who has a neck, something weird, also. I made a sketch. And it was a day I was at home drawing, and suddenly I started drawing, and I said, I have to take a picture of this because I love the idea. But it’s not that all of them go through that creative process. There are some that have just happened to me. I watch a movie and I see a scene that motivates me to take a picture. Sure. So, if one day I’m bored, frustrated, and I tell a friend, hey, look, come here, I want to take a picture. 

And here we invent something. 

Exactly, and there come one or two friends, as has happened, that in the same space, on the same day, I take two or three photos with different people. And then they join, and there begins an almost spontaneous creative process. There is not much complication. 

Right. Now I’m going to put you in a tight spot. Because I want to know who you consider to be the top 5 of the young Cuban photographers. 

I was expecting the question. I knew you were coming for the question. I have an idea. 

Enlighten us. 

I’ve been a Cuban photographer for a long time, since I got here, I’ve been a little isolated from photography because I’ve decided it like this. You must be going through the same thing. You’re going through a process that requires your mind and body to function. And it’s the big change that comes with moving from one country to another. Meaning, to start over. And right now I don’t have the head to create anything, I don’t have the head to think, because I’m dependent on the fact of making a life again. A life from scratch, you know. And so, right now I don’t have the will, I don’t have the desire, I don’t have the desire. It’s not that I don’t have the equipment, I have some equipment, but I’m not willing right now. And then, as a result of that, I’ve also disconnected a little from the subject of social media, technology. I don’t know right now which is the last camera or lenses. I’m lost right now. It’s not that I’m interested in it, but at least before I was more into that. I’m completely detached. Like I said, I’m focused on other things. I’m focused on learning to drive. I’m focused on working. I’m focused on other things. 

Yes, the restart. The restart of life. 

It doesn’t mean that I’ve left it aside. Not at all. You see me on the street, as my sister says, and suddenly I see a poster. It caught my attention. I think I told you how big it is. Yes. How illuminated it is. 

Please remember to share so more people can see what is happening here. We We’re having a great time and we’re learning a little bit about Amanda Siquier’s work. She’s a Cuban photographer from the United States and has a beautiful job. I recommend that if you don’t follow her, follow her on her social media. She says she’s on a break, but I’m sure she’ll be back soon to take photos and do it with more energy. 

You can be sure. I’ve put it aside as a pause for a moment, but it doesn’t mean that I’m not going to take it up again at some point. I just feel like I can’t. I don’t have the ability to do both at the same time. I mean, There are people who come and can do it. I don’t doubt it. I congratulate them. In my case, I can’t. Now I’m adapting to the idea of a change, and then other things will come. It won’t take long. But first I need to organize certain things and then go back to them and go back with more strength. You know, that’s the other thing. When you take a break, in that break you are constantly thinking, you are constantly creating, your mind, even if you don’t believe it, is in function of them. Because it happens to me, I am very clueless. I live in a constant cloud. I’m always in a cloud. I go out and look at the beautiful lights. And then I say, Stop, stop, let me take a picture of this. You know, it’s like this, I’m constantly like this. Now I use my cell phone a lot, I take a lot of pictures with my phone, of things that catch my attention, which is what I was saying, that I have liked new things, which in Cuba maybe didn’t happen to me. Because, you know, to me, for many people, many photographers, what was happening were motivated by that divine decadence that existed, of the man in the street, poverty, the buildings collapsing. Okay, I mean, it seems good to me, but it didn’t attract me. Maybe because I was used to seeing it every day. It was part of my routine. I used to go to Old Havana, and I saw that every day. It really made me sad. I wasn’t motivated to take pictures of that. And then I got here, and obviously I want to continue doing portraits, but I see something new. And it’s that, a country so huge, that you feel so small, you know? Like, very, very small. Seeing so many lights, seeing so many big things. And one of the things I want to do at some point is to do some street photography. Do some simpler things than maybe putting a person in the photo. And obviously my portraits. I will never forget that. I don’t know how I’m going to do it. 

I don’t know how you’re going to give me your top 5 young Cuban photographers. 

True, I’m going to. What I was saying, being completely detached from that, I haven’t seen new photographers that are emerging, that I don’t doubt there are. Many people have told me, hey, have you seen that guy? Have you seen the fuck he does? He is a 18-year-old boy. And I say, wow, but they have shown me, it is not that I have followed them, sometimes I do not even find them. But I tell you, from the generation before I came here, Daniel Martinez, Claudia Reimar, a brilliant woman, brilliant. I also have Daniel Arévalo, who I have respected for many years. His technique, his light control, I don’t know what else to say. Really, only those three. I don’t doubt that there are more, but I’ve married a lot with those three people. With you. 

It’s an honor. It’s reciprocal admiration. Your work for me has been of great influence. Do you remember when my edits were super ugly and super weird? I wrote to you and you said, what can I do here? Do you remember that part? Because they are things that I keep with a lot of love and admiration for you and your work. I really love it.

I am happy for that, Every now and then my stepfather and my mom follow you. They follow all of your work. And they tell me, that guy has a talent. So that my stepfather says that. I have to say. 

Thank you very much. 

It’s complicated. And look, I mentioned those three because they are the ones that I follow the most. They are the ones that I follow today. But there are millions of Cuban photographers that I know. They are very talented. Right now, Ruber, who does strip, who was in the group, Osoria, I think his name is Osoria, that guy, I don’t know him, But I also followed him for a long time. What happens is that he does street documentary. But that guy is also great. And he is Cuban. He doesn’t live in Cuba, but he is Cuban. 

He lives in Chile. There, Ruber, left you a question. A question that I’m going to ask you when I have to answer the questions. 

I already read it.

So, how has it been, I think you just talked a little bit about that, but now more directly, how has the change been personally and professionally since leaving Cuba? 

Personally, Dani, it has been rough. I always wanted to leave Cuba because I had a lot of goals that I know that in a way Cuba has blocked them a little bit but the most important thing I have in my life I left it on that side and it’s hard to change something for that and that’s my mom is you know, very difficult.

Yes, it’s difficult. Very difficult. 

I was always very close to my mom. A lot. Almost friends, sisters, mother. She fulfilled all the functions of a father at some point. And when I came here and left my mom there, that was emotionally a blow. I think it was the strongest. And then there are my friends, the world of you going out to the street and saying, I’m going to Studio 50 and finding the same group that I always saw. And you’re super happy to find it because you knew you could go absolutely alone, that you would always find someone. You know, I miss that. I miss going out and saying, I have a group of friends who will respond. It’s not the case, I have friends here. But life here is so hectic, a process so fast, that you are left behind, and if you don’t run with them, you’re gone. That life is agitated. That process of change for me has been complicated. It’s not that it’s bad. I’ve told that to a lot of people. It’s not that that change, that speed, is bad. On the contrary, it’s good. The fact that Cuba doesn’t have that speed is what, in part, is why there are many problems, because there, no matter how much I worked, I always had a free weekend, I always had everything planned, I would work Monday, Friday, Saturday and Sunday, I would go out to party. That’s not the case here: I would work either in the morning, in the afternoon, And you have to do it. You have to do it. Because for that, there are going to be things coming back, many things that in Cuba you didn’t even dream of having. But it’s not unless it’s true that this change hits you and then you have to run. You have to run at the pace of such a big country, right?

Yes, it is. 

And I’m really happy. I mean, I’m happy in the part that I have a lot of dreams. I want to achieve a lot of things, and I know I can do it, even if it takes me a little longer, because I’m 25 years old. I’m not like one of my brothers, who is 15 years old. Maybe if I was younger, the change wouldn’t have been so hard. But I’m 25. I’m already more than formed. But, you know, I know I’m going to make it. And I know that at some point I’m going to have my mother here. Because that’s what I’m fighting for. 

I’m sure you will. And that you’re going to achieve all your goals. Because talent and the desire to do and the desire to push forward are the ones that are left over. I’m sure you will. 

My mom is a beauty. She was the one who did the self-portraits. I would put the camera on her and tell her, Mom, let’s take a picture. Sometimes I would take a blurry picture, sometimes I would take a picture with a terrible frame, but she did it. She would do it because she understood that I wanted that. And she always supported me. She supported me since I was a little girl. Like, everything caught my attention. I wanted to do everything. And then I finished photography. But I don’t know what I didn’t do. Flamenco, radio, Sofleo, painting, drums. I mean, I learned a lot. I even wanted to buy a guitar, but she said no. You know? That’s when I started photography. 

I’m one of those who think that knowledge never takes up much space. But well, if you have to spend money buying things, that’s another 20 pesos (a Cuban way of saying ‘That’s a different story’).

No, I only spend money on the camera, luckily. I decided… I decided to help you decide well. 

Now we’re going to answer some of the questions. And if anybody else has questions to ask Amanda, I see that Ruber has asked a couple of questions over there that are very interesting. Let’s see, over here there was the first one. Ruber says what project are you currently working on and what final format do you like to finish your projects in, whether it’s a zine, a book, an expo, a digital publication? 

Look, I really, the way I edit the photos is a bit weird.I don’t talk about it too much because it’s not that I’m embarrassed about it, but I know there’s a lot of people who, a lot of photographers who take it the wrong way. It’s like, my God, how can you do that? But I go through three apps. Three. From computer to mobile. I also use mobile because most people, when they see the photos, they see them on their mobile. So I need to finish doing it on a screen as reliable as possible to what people are seeing. Many people have written to me and sent me pictures and told me, look at how your picture looks. And I can’t do more because it’s not going to be the same on all phones. I work camera RAW at the beginning. You know, everything, the most important thing, almost I, the photo, I completely desaturate it, I leave it without flat colors. I try to do it as plain as possible, without colors. I try to make the most colorless possible, so that it doesn’t have too much contrast, so that it doesn’t have almost anything. And then I open it in Photoshop, you know? And then I start to create. I mean, I don’t upload the clarity, I don’t upload the texture, I don’t upload any of that. I leave it at zero. I try, in fact, to remove, as I say, some other dirt that bothers me, the same texture of the skin or something. And then in Photoshop I start painting painting I mean with the dot to burn you know, like creating structures, so to speak.

I have never been able to do that. I admit it.

It’s not easy. After I finish all that process that the photo is almost ready I go to my phone, I configure it, and I finish editing in an app called Snapseed. 

I have Snapseed, it’s great.

I gave you the hint. I like Snapseed a lot. I don’t just put a filter on it and that’s it. I don’t do that. I start making layers within the same photo and what happens is that it doesn’t end up in the photo because the photo will lower the quality a lot when you save it from Snapchat. I save the photo, export it and then I go back to the computer and open it in Photoshop to increase the quality. And that’s how I finish my work. 

Another question that was here, by Ruber. How do you think photography can help tell stories and document everyday life in Cuba?

Look, I think there are many ways and, I mean, people, this is true, it’s not for anyone to take it the wrong way, or anything like that, it’s not at all my intention, I respect everyone’s work. But, yes, what I was saying just now, I mean, going out in the streets and portraying that is not the only way. I think that, in fact, there is an artist that when I started in photography, he was emerging, I don’t know if you know who he is, Ronald Bill. 
 
Yes, of course.

That man, that boy, would sneak into houses, I mean, he didn’t sneak into houses, Ronald Bill. I am saying it in a vulgar way, right? But he kind of went more into the houses, into that closed life, that you don’t have access to see, that you only see the movement of the streets. I mean, that closeness, that you don’t have access to, that you only see the movement of the streets, that decadence, that sadness, which was what everyone portrayed, he was the one who entered people’s lives more. And I always liked that, because he did it at their own home, or in his own studio, and he portrayed people’s lives in a real way. A real Cuban, with his own problems, his own defects, and his own virtues. Because he knows how to do it. 

That series of Ronald is called Domestic Scenes, if I remember correctly. It’s really spectacular, Very good.

Exactly. And so I think that’s a way to portray, for me, the best way to portray life in Cuba more intimately. I’m more intimate, and I see it like this. Everyone has something to say. Everyone has something to say. Everyone has trauma. Everyone is afraid. Everyone has problems. Everyone has internal demons. Everyone has something to say, and not necessarily has to say it verbally, because it’s scary to talk about those problems you have. And in a photo, sometimes that person shows you all of them. Their sadness, their happiness. But almost always what people show when they portrait them, if you haven’t noticed, is that inner fear, that series of things, right? That nobody talks about and that nobody says. 

Great. I’m super happy that you have agreed to be the first, to be the cannon fodder in this podcast De Aquí y de Allá. And well, now, if you were to nominate three Cuban photographers or artists to come here and I interviewed them, who would they be?

Well, I think number one would be my stepfather.  That’s going to be, I don’t miss that. Because that’s what he has in his soul, a knife, but for good. I mean, he was a teacher, imagine that, of art. He is tough. And it’s very good, very interesting to listen to him. And a person I would like to invite I don’t know if I have time, I don’t know how he is He was a person I met who is a curator. I think there are people who know him. 

What’s his name? 

He was a teacher at the Faculty of Arts and Letters. His name is Carlos. The last name… I can’t remember the last name. I have to look for it. He was a person very close to me and it’s really worth the interview Because he can speak to you in a more general way. He is very good at speaking. And he can be very interesting, he doesn’t have to be just an artist. There are people who have knowledge of art, but… 

Of course, they are linked to art. Exactly. Of course. 

My stepfather, obviously, I would like to invite him to see what comes come out of there. Because… Yes, it’s going to be interesting, believe me. Look, I would like you to be there too. Let’s see how the dynamics would be. Maybe I’ll help you, because if you do it, you’ll have to answer a series of questions that I’ll ask you or anyone. 

So you’re going to interview me? Look at that. 

Of course. Look, I would like… Also, this person we were talking about, Ronald Bill, I don’t know if you can contact him. He’s very interesting. Ronald Bill. Carlos Jaime. My stepdad just texted me. He’s the curator I’m telling you about. 

Carlos Jaime. His last name sounds familiar to me, but I have no idea. Yes, Carlos Jaime sounds familiar to me.

You asked me a question. 

Which one? 

What’s your biggest goal? 

I had it here. I had it mixed up.

I know, I know. My biggest goals, I can say that they are not very big. I don’t aspire to something big, to be known. It’s quite simple. I’m very interested in educating, in sharing my knowledge with others. I’ve always liked it. Sometimes a friend writes to me and say, show me something about photography, and I was super willing to do it. I taught classes. I had a community project many years ago, giving classes to children and teenagers. And the truth is, I liked it so much, because it was my own neighborhood, you know? And there were children from there, from the neighborhood. And when you gave them the classes, and you saw that those children liked what they were listening to, because it’s not giving the photograph, as if it were Spanish history math, giving the photograph to the majors, but more like looking for it in a simpler, more dynamic way, more day to day. I love that. I’ve always wanted to teach, be a teacher, have my own space where I can take pictures, my own house, something very intimate. And publish, maybe do a personal exhibition, which I have never done. But those are my goals. Quite simple, really. 

Look, we have a question. We have a question that says, you said you were looking for intimacy. As for the workplace, what are you looking for in your models? 

In my models? I think you had talked a little bit about that before, but now the question arises. Look, I don’t look for anything in my models. I mean, I don’t look for anything, I’m going to say it. Physically, it’s not that I go out looking for something. It’s just that they are people I know, And I’m telling you that as a person, I like them. There’s something about them that makes me connect. And then I take pictures of them. But it’s not that I go around and see a pretty girl, which is what a lot of people believe, and I’m like, you know what? This is my Instagram, I can take a picture of you. At some point I tried to do it, but it never happened. In fact, I never took a picture of those people because I felt like I was going to be embarrassed, like I was going to be very cold.  And in this case, basically, what I have looked for is someone who appears or also happens, that is Rolo, Rolando Cabrera, at some point we were taking pictures together and I said, hey, I’m going to bring a girl to take some pictures, I don’t know what, because I was going to the space that I had. And then, that girl connected, took some nice pictures, but very few have happened. Most of them are friends, are people I know, and I feel a connection, a vibe, that I feel identified with that person. I think that’s it. 

That’s very good. It’s something good when you have that connection with the person you’re going to portray, because it really happens to me. And it’s super nice because it motivates you and as I say, it makes you feel good. It gives you the feeling that you know that the work you are doing is going to be good. 

Exactly. I don’t actually sexualize at all. I don’t like it. I don’t know if it has been clearly understood in my feed that I don’t like to sexualize. I do a partial nude, which is more important than the actual nude. I don’t like to sexualize for many reasons. I think that a woman, whoever she is, has her sensuality, her things. There is no need to show everything. I am not against the nudes, but I personally don’t like it. And I’m terrified of it, because sometimes it goes from artistic to vulgar. And so, you know, it’s something I’m afraid of. I prefer not to go in there. There are people who know how to do it. I’ve seen in your work that you’ve been able to do it, but it scares me. And, you know, I don’t want to compromise a woman, I want to expose her and make her look vulgar. I mean, my idea is to make her look sensual, like she is, as is. It doesn’t matter. Her own sensuality is what it is. 

Of course. Well, if there are no more questions, we will close for today. Remember, we will be here next week with a new guest. I want to thank Amanda for having shared with us a little bit about her work, her artistic work, and her ways of seeing and taking photos. I’m sure that all the people who have been here, like me, have been delighted with the answer you have given us and what you have told us about your work and where you come from and what are your main motivations and your main goals in your life, both personal and artistic. Thank you very much, Amanda. I want to remind everyone that next week I will be with a guest…

Who is it, Gary? [Sponge Bob Speaking Spanish]

Who?

I will be with a guest… Do you want to know who the guest is? Next week, if everything goes well and if there is no accident, extraordinary, we will have Ruben Ferrero Hardy as a guest. Thank you all for being here. I’m really happy that this first episode has been so good. And I hope to continue doing it every week and bring a little bit about Cuban Photography from here and there.

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