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Work / Photography

Photographer Carlos Jaramillo captures the pigeon racers of Cuba

Rather than simply focusing on the colourful landscape shots we’ve come to associate with Cuba, photographer Carlos Jaramillo took to finding the individuals that make it the unique place it is. “I have always wanted to travel and see the island and an opportunity came up to go through an organisation that provides skateboards and art supplies to the island,” explains Carlos. While exploring Old Havana, the photographer met Erislandy, a pigeon racer, on the rooftops. “I was intrigued by his work with pigeons and I asked him if he could tell me more about what he was doing and why.”

Erislandy’s passion for birds became a fascination of Carlos’ while he was there: “The pigeon racing community felt like a different world up on the rooftops. I wanted to show his world, his passion and expose a different side of Cuba I hadn’t seen before.”

Throughout the series are beautiful shots of pigeons spanning their iridescently dyed wings and mottled feathers. More than just the birds themselves, Carlos gives the viewer an insight into Erislandy. We capture glimpses of pigeon statues he’s made and the tags he creates for his pigeons’ ankles, which are bright yellow with a minuscule image of his face on them.

While following Erislandy, Carlos learned more about the sport and culture of pigeon racing, like the criteria for team tournaments and the logistical elements that go into organising races. “Erislandy also works meticulously to breed the best genes between different pigeon communities, taking at least five months to observe a potential male suitor for his female birds,” explains Carlos. “One of his birds is the third fastest pigeon in Cuba.”

Often seen as “dirty street rats” in many cities and towns, here Carlos gives pigeons an elegance and grace. “I am always looking to convey beauty. With this series, I really began to see pigeons in another form. In racing they are sleek athletes, beautifully dyed in bright colours. I wanted to show this against the rough background of urban Old Havana.”

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Carlos Jaramillo: Cuba Pigeon Racing

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Carlos Jaramillo: Cuba Pigeon Racing

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Carlos Jaramillo: Cuba Pigeon Racing

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Carlos Jaramillo: Cuba Pigeon Racing

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Carlos Jaramillo: Cuba Pigeon Racing

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Carlos Jaramillo: Cuba Pigeon Racing

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Carlos Jaramillo: Cuba Pigeon Racing

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Carlos Jaramillo: Cuba Pigeon Racing