Thursday, March 30, 2017
Corrales captured Cojimar and beyond

Soon after I started traveling to Cuba 18 years ago, I made a point to get out of Havana, first to the west of Pinar del Rio, then to the east. The most obvious eastern choice was Cojimar, a true ‘sleepy fishing village’ roughly 15 minutes outside of Havana. I knew one of Cuba’s most famous characters lived there, and sure enough, we found “El Capitan,” Gregorio Fuentes, Ernest Hemingway’s boat captain. Right away, I took an interest in this tiny port town.

Another famous resident of Cojimar was one of Cuba’s, indeed the world’s, most famous photographers, Raul Corrales. I first met Sr. Corrales in 2002, and cherish the experience. Having no idea where to look, we began asking around at the now very touristy “Las Terrazas” bar and restaurant and were quickly directed to the shooter’s home. Not knowing what he looked like, I sheepishly asked the elderly gentleman who came to the door if Mr. Corrales lived here. “Yes, he does,” the man said in a not-too-terribly friendly tone. I was uncomfortable, but pushed on. I asked if it was he, and if we could come in to talk about photography. He looked at us for a moment, then smiled and opened the screen door.

I’ll never forget his casual demeanor, pink slippers, or the fact that our little conversation about photography turned into a 2-3 hour, in-depth conversation about Kodak film, digital cameras and the Revolution. I remember sitting at his feet, literally looking up at this titan of photography. I also couldn’t help but notice the framed images of John F. Kennedy, Richard Nixon and Robert Redford. It was another surreal “Cuba moment,” indeed. I only wish I had recorded it all.

Corrales, who died on April 15, 2006, at age 81, came from humble beginnings as a shoe-shine boy, fruit vendor and paperboy before landing work at a few Cuban lifestyle magazines. He began documenting the Revolution in 1960 and produced some of the most iconic images of life in Cuba along with Alberto Diaz (a.k.a. Korda), and father/son Osvaldo and Roberto Salas.

In addition to documenting hard news, Corrales’ other work features life in a port town. Grizzled, hard-working fishermen, sea scenes, and of course, his ultra-rare images of Ernest Hemingway have led to many classic photo books.

On Saturday, April 1, from 6pm-8pm, SALT Gallery, at 830 Fleming Street, will open a month-long exhibition of Raul Corrales’ “Hemingway in Cuba” collection. I, for one, can’t wait to check it out. Anyone even remotely interested in Cuba will enjoy seeing this crystal-clear and geniusly-captured glimpse into Cuban life.

ronneal@keysnews.com