Raul Cañibano: Capturing Cuban Lifestyle

Above: Cañibano, Raúl, Untitled, 2001, Gelatin silver print in the exhibition el otro lado del alma.

Inspired by an exhibit showcasing the work of Cuban photographer Alfredo Sarabio, Raul Cañibano made a career change at 30 and never looked back. He quit his welding job and picked up a camera. Since then he has devoted himself to portraying an accurate depiction of Cuban life through photography.

Cañibano was born in Havana, Cuba in 1961 at the end of the Cuban Revolution. He was originally a welder at an aviation company before he became a self-taught photographer. The beginning of his photography career began in 1992 during Cuba’s “Special Period” which was a period of economic crises for the island. He started as an apprentice at a commercial studio and shot events such as quinceañeras and weddings. His unique introduction to photography partly attributes to his style. He never worked for the press or was formally trained. The development of his artist expression was completely organic and of his own devices.

His black and white photographs examine Cuba and the psychology behind its people and the way they live. He pictures dirt homes with no electricity, or sick elders unable to use health care, or the faithful on their yearly pilgrimage honoring Saint Lazarus.

Cañibano’s childhood experiences in the Cuban countryside inspire subject matter for many of his artworks. In the series “Tierra Guajira,” he documented lifestyle in rural Cuba, visions which shared a likeness to his childhood memories. The series was awarded the grand prize in the 1999 Cuban national photography exhibit. Religion is also an important theme in his work. He believes religion is the reason why different cultures survive.

He greatly admires the work or surrealist painters and photographers Josed Koudelka and Sebastion Salgado. Today he works as an advertising photographer in Havana. His photographs have been exhibited worldwide.

el otro lado del alma: Syncretisms in Contemporary Cuban Photography, Curated by Moritz Neumüller, January 21 – May 24, LUAG Main Gallery, Zoellner Arts Center

Gallery talk with curator Moritz Neumüller, March 17 at 5 pm

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