Cuba the Architecture of Isolation in His Timely Photographs of a Nation's Buildings, Neil Rashba Captures the Dramatic Contrasts of a Country Ravishing Yet Ravished

Article excerpt

In Neil Rashba's photographs of Cuba, piles of rubble lie next

to graceful archways, television antennae sprout from Art

Nouveau buildings, and entire blocks of buildings seem ready to

crumble away.

It's an architectural heritage that the Palm Valley

photographer describes as "ravishing-yet-ravaged."

About 30 of Rashba's color photographs will be on display in

"Cuba Libre, Photographing Cuba's Architecture," an exhibit that

opens Dec. 4 at The Jacksonville Museum of Contemporary Art.

Museum director Henry Flood Robert Jr. describes the

photographs as straightforward in one sense and dramatic in

another.

"What he chooses to shoot, the angularity of shots, the

interplay of light and shadow all contribute to a sophisticated

sense of drama," Robert said. "And his care for what he's

photographing is interwoven inextricably in the fabric of these

pictures."

Like Italian photographer Andrea Brizzi, whose work is featured

in Cuba: 400 Years of Architectural Heritage (Whitney, $49.95),

Rashba has visited Cuba to capture images of buildings that

might be changed or demolished in the near future because of

their deteriorating state.

Rashba makes his living by taking documentary photographs of

new buildings for architects and manufacturers, but those shoots

are always done to a customer's specifications.

When Rashba met friends who helped him arrange a visit to Cuba,

he seized the opportunity to satisfy his curiosity about the

island's architecture and to take photographs for his own

pleasure.

"It's not illegal to go over, but you can't spend money,"

Rashba explained.

The photographer made contact with the National Center for

Conservation, Restoration and Museums, a Cuban organization that

oversees zoning, planning and organization for almost all

buildings in Cuba, he said.

When he visits Cuba, he stays with the center's staff members

and brings all of his film and equipment with him into the

country to avoid illegal spending. The center has granted Rashba

access to shoot anywhere he wants, even military installations,

he said.

But taking photographs in Cuba is very different from his

normal commercial work.

"If you saw what I normally travel with, you'd faint," Rashba

said. "I usually take about 16 cases, including 25 lights, which

take two people to handle."

When working in Cuba, he takes a fourth as much equipment and

shoots interiors with available light. …