Chronicles of an Island marks the first UK solo exhibition for Raúl Cañibano (b. 1961, Havana). One of the most respected photographers working in Cuba today, his award-winning work focuses on the country’s people and lives in a post- revolution era and reflect his close ties to, and love for, his homeland. Raised in the rural province of Las Tunas on the eastern side of Cuba, Cañibano worked as a welder until 1989, when a visit to an exhibition of Alfredo Sarabia’s surrealist photographs at the Fototeca de Cuba inspired him to pursue a career in photography. Largely self-taught, Cañibano quickly joined the generation of photographers coming into being in the 1990s following the dissolution of the Soviet Union, who were interested in documenting the effects of the economic crisis on the livelihoods and experiences of ‘Cubanos’.
His first photograph, depicting the shadow of an equestrian statue cut off in the middle to reveal a linear arrangement of modern lamp-posts against a stark, cloudless sky, established both his aesthetic and political concerns. The unique composition hints at his surrealist influences, while also evoking the island’s turbulent past and present impending socio-economic change.
Because of the restrictions on imports and the absence of darkrooms in Cuba, Cañibano transported his precious negatives to the UK in a cigar box to produce the silver gelatin prints on display here. These limited editions have been made exclusively for The Photographers’ Gallery in collaboration with master printer Robin Bell, who has worked with such masters as Elliott Erwitt, David Bailey and Don McCullin. This exhibition presents a selection of works from two on-going bodies of work, Ciudad and Tierra Guajira, chronicling life in the city and the countryside.
With special thanks to exhibition liaison, Dr James Kent (Royal Holloway, University of London).