30 January 2009
Cuba Today: The Havana Photographers
Blokes like this has been earning a living in Havana, Cuba, for well over a century. Their cameras all date from between 1890 and 1910 and are still going strong today - well, sort of.
The cameras were built especially for the tourist trade and at one time just about every tourist destination all over the world would have its army of photographers, all offering nearly instant photos with them.
To the rear of the camera, and just underneath it, is a tray that holds the developing chemicals. The shot is taken and then the photo is developed in about five minutes.
In Havana what happens is a bit more sophisticated. The subject is sat down on the marble steps of the old Congress building to be photographed. A positive print is made and is then placed in front of the camera in the upright wooden frame that you can see in the photograph.
The frame also holds a photo of the building's dome, and a photo is then taken of the subject and the dome. What the tourist gets for his 50p is not a boring shot of himself sat on some steps, but a photo that seems to show the dome looming above him. OK, the result is not exactly digital quality, but for half-a-quid who cares?
These photographers and their antique cameras are to be found in front of the old Congress building, which today is a museum.