It seems Cuba is no longer the mysterious island it once was. “Every fucker goes to Cuba” I was recently and so elegantly told. Well, perhaps if all your friends are affluent middle class westerners, that may be true – the communist Caribbean enclave does receive over 2 million visitors a year after all, but for the remaining few billion earthlings who haven’t gotten around to it yet, Cuba still retains a certain air of exotic impenetrability.
For decades after the violent revolution of the 1950s, the small main island and its satellite archipelagos was in lockdown, with almost nothing and nobody leaving (legally at least) and trade embargos meaning not much was entering either. Now tourism is the island’s largest source of income, and those middle classes beating a path to the capital Havana find themselves catapulted into a fascinating timewarp, transported 60 years into the past to look on a virtual freeze frame of Cuban history.
Into this world of extravagantly-finned sedans and flamboyant architecture dives photographer Michael Eastman in his collection Havana. This is a world of faded glory, crumbling grandeur and decaying prosperity. The seized homes of the former ruling elite stand as flaking metaphors to the once opulent, now somewhat down-at-heel nation, beautifully captured by the self-taught American. Take a peeling pastel nostalgia trip with a selection of Eastman’s images at London’s Michael Hoppen Gallery, Jubilee Place, throughout February and March this year.