Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Photographs Are a Visual Journey to Cuba; Artist Captures Life and Spirit of People

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Photographs Are a Visual Journey to Cuba; Artist Captures Life and Spirit of People

Article excerpt

Byline: Tanya Perez-Brennan, Times-Union staff writer

It all started with the bicycles.

Randy Batista got the idea for the motif after watching a play in Fort Lauderdale about Cubans escaping the island where there was a focus on people using bicycles as a major from of transport. So he decided to go to Cuba and see if, indeed, bicycles were all the rage.

"Down there, they're everywhere," he said. "They use it for everything. They've been extremely resourceful with what they have to work with."

Batista, a Cuban-American artist based in Gainesville, uses bicycles as one theme in his black-and-white photography exhibit, "Cuba: A Personal Journey," at the University of North Florida's Fine Arts Center through Oct. 31. The exhibit, which contains 26 photographs, documents the landscape, people and culture of Cuba, gleaned from three trips Batista has made to the island since 1996. He will be giving a slide lecture of his work at 7 p.m. Oct. 21 in the UNF recital hall.

Batista, who was born in Cuba but raised near Tampa, was always interested in documentary photography and using black-and-white film. When he went to Cuba for the first time, he instantly felt at home and knew he wanted to document the lives of ordinary Cubans in a photographic street style.

"I try to capture the people's soul and what's there and present it in a way that's telling and gives you a sense of being there," he said.

And indeed, you get that sense when looking at Batista's photographs, many of which are portraits. A few striking ones stand out. In one, a group of young men stand with their bikes, staring defiantly back at the viewer with a tire repair shop sign in the background.

Another shows a young boy, with his bicycle in front, a crown of bananas lazily hanging from the handlebars.

A sense of humor is conveyed in an almost musketeers-type shot in which four men sit, one with cigarettes in hand, another with a cigar prominently placed in his mouth, with amusing expressions on their weathered faces. …

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