Brad Ogbonna’s adventure in Cuba began with an invitation from New York painter Kehinde Wiley. “He travels to different destinations around the world to find subjects for his series of paintings,” Brad explains. Kehinde brought the photographer along to create a documentary of his process, but in his spare moments Brad ventured off to capture the colours, the people and flavours of Cuba. Brad says: “Kehinde was adamant about creating work in Cuba as it is currently before the return of western influence and globalisation takes hold”.
As a result Brad eschewed his usual preparations for a project. “Normally I try to do a bit of research before I go on a trip, but with Cuba I decided to come in fresh and pick up on things organically,” he says. “Cuba is an easy place to be inspired by; virtually every neighbourhood has so much character and intrigue, I felt compelled to capture the spontaneity.”
Colour is prominent throughout Brad’s photographs with every pastel shade and balmy hue making an appearance, with turquoise swimming pools and concrete columns that coordinate beautifully with the hazy blue sky. “I’ve always been intrigued by how people in warmer climates tend to use colour in a wildly different way than what I’ve been accustomed to living in Minnesota and New York,” the photographer explains. “I packed a lot of black and white film thinking I would shoot a number of rolls of it, but I couldn’t get past how vivid everything was.”
"I can look back at these images and be reminded of the country’s many nuances and idiosyncrasies before its big changes take place.”- Brad Ogbonna
The people Brad’s photographed adds to the beauty of the series. From the group of boys at the pool to the men in fedoras chatting by their cars, the real character and charm of Cuba shines through. “I don’t think I’ve ever visited a more hospitable country,” Brad says. “People were extremely kind and weren’t the least bit apprehensive around me or my camera – save for the few times when I wanted to photograph government buildings.”
When reflecting on his images Brad says: “Cuba is preparing to re-open itself to the outside world once again and soon it will be a place in flux – I’m fortunate I can look back at these images and be reminded of the country’s many nuances and idiosyncrasies before its big changes take place.”