Cuba: Memories Revisited | José Betancourt
- Jan 19–Feb 27, 2021
- Carnegie Visual Arts Center
Memories Revisited (2021)
Cuba: Memories Revisited, is an exhibition of photographs that illustrate my memories as a five-year-old, and my visit back to Cuba after 48 years. It combines the assembled photographs and stories collected before my visit, with the documentary style photographs from my trip in March 2019.
Before my trip, I collected stories, wrote down my memories, and created photographs from my mind’s eye. Part of my method was to write down what I remembered and apply the photographic technique that best communicated my imagined image. The pictures are usually missing something or manipulated to a surreal state. Sometimes they seem as simple as my memories.
For my visit, I decided to tell the story of how things are now. Re-discovering family and place were the most important things for me. The family that stayed were mostly on my father’s side; my grandmother, and my great aunts and uncles from this large family of eleven children. My documentary-style photographs attempt to describe the place as it is now and possibly reflecting on the life I may have lived there.
Cuba has not changed much in the years since I left. I found some changes to the houses where I lived, but very little. This made it possible to quickly reconnect with my surroundings. The reconnection with my family was also like I had never left. We had so much in common. Through all our life-changing experiences, it also confirmed that culture and identity have an underlying presence, no matter where you go.
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Cuba: Memories Revisited is an exhibition of alternative photography illustrating memories of Cuba from the eyes of a five-year-old. Alternative photography is a style of photography that includes historical processes not widely used today, and also processes that may not use a traditional camera. This work becomes a more subjective style of photography that fits with the idea of making images from memories.
The other documentary-style photographs are exhibited in comparison to the more surreal images made through the alternative techniques. The comparison is a way to show what the photographer remembers and what is actually there 48 years later.
Cuba: Reconstructing Memories
In June of 1971 my life changed forever, literally in a matter of minutes. With my suitcase and a toy plane, I traveled with my parents from Havana, Cuba to Miami, Florida. The flight was part of the Freedom Flights that carried over 250,000 Cubans to a new life in the United States between 1965 to 1973. Everything was left behind except what we could carry. As a five-year-old I had no idea what this meant.
For these images I chose to assemble a group of photographs that are initiated by memory. Part of my method was to write down what I remembered and apply the photographic technique that best communicated my unclear image. The pictures are usually missing something or manipulated to a surreal state. Sometimes they seem as simple as my memories.
Cuba: The Revisit
Family members were left behind, some coming later, some choosing to stay. The family that stayed were mostly on my father’s side; my grandmother, my great aunts and uncles. They were from a large family of eleven children.
My documentary-style photographs record the place as it is now, but also reflecting on the life I may have lived there. Cuba has not changed much in the years since I left. This made it possible to quickly reconnect with my surroundings. The connection with my family was immediate- like I had never left.