Reading The Pictures is dedicated to the analysis of news photos and media images.
December 19, 2014

With the Cuba Breakthrough, the One Thing You'll Be Seeing Plenty Of

I can’t say where the reapproachment with Cuba is headed exactly but I can guarantee one thing.  Get ready for months of pictures of early model cars. The street scene above, circulated by Getty, was taken Wednesday. I think a lot of these red beauties with the white hard tops are used for taxis. Driving the politics, the caption informs us the man is reading a Communist paper.

With the breakthrough, a November 2012 slideshow from NatGeo (“Cuba’s New Now”) is also getting a lot of play. The sixteen photos by Paolo Pellegrin, including the second image above, are beautifully composed. If the location of this picnic is amusing in light of the headlines, you’ll also notice the caption’s coda:

Markers of a richly Cuban outing at Havana’s Parque Lenin: the clicking of dominoes, the head-to-toe white clothing of a Santería adherent, and a Russian sedan likely kept running with transplanted parts.

Pellegrin was clearly attuned to the island’s seductive vehicles as you seen them in photos 15, 10 and 5. To appreciate his playfulness, #9 is the  most fun as an exquisite model pokes out from behind a tree.

The last shot, however, most effectively uses car lust to punctuate the journalism. Also taken Wednesday, this was circulated by the AP. If the most noticeable thing about the billboard to Americans is the depiction of an aged but beneficent Fidel, far more significant are the detainees on the first panel, household names in Cuba that the U.S. set free.

(photo 1: Sven Creutzmann / Mambo Photo / Getty Images caption: A Cuban man reads the Granma, a Cuban Communist party paper, as he has his shoes shined, shortly after the announcement of normalized relations. photo 2: Paolo Pellegrin/Magnum. photo 3: Desmond Boylan/AP caption: A classic American car drives by a billboard showing Fidel Castro, right, and “The Cuban Five” in Havana, Cuba, Wednesday, Dec. 17, 2014. The Cuban Five were part of the “Wasp Network” sent by then-Cuban President Fidel Castro to spy in South Florida. The men, who are hailed as heroes in Cuba, were convicted in 2001 in Miami on charges including conspiracy and failure to register as foreign agents in the U.S. On Wednesday, Dec. 17, 2014, three of the five Cubans were released by the U.S. in exchange for U.S. citizen Alan Gross and an unnamed Cuban man who was imprisoned for nearly 20 years for spying for the United States. Two of the Cuban Five were previously released after finishing their sentences.)

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