Led by internationally renown Cuban documentary photographer Raúl Cañibano Ercilla and Pulitzer Prize-winning photojournalist Rodolfo Gonzalez, this eight-day, nine night, all-inclusive program focuses on the arts, culture, and people, who are the heartbeat of this rapidly changing city.
Designed with support from Havana’s premier photographic institution, Fototeca de Cuba, this is far beyond a typical travel photography tour. It’s an immersive photographic, cultural, and creative experience, unlike anything offered in a photo workshop in Cuba.
To advance storytelling skills and sharpen the ability to create visual narratives, participants are challenged to go beyond Cuba’s well-documented visuals: classic cars, cigar-smoking locals, horses in tobacco fields, and La Habana Vieja — The Old City — with its eclectic mix of architecture, museums, galleries, plazas, and gritty street life. This journey takes participants behind-the-scenes of Cuba’s performing arts and cultural world, such as ballet, flamenco, jazz, the circus, Afro-Cuban, and contemporary dance forms.
Through evening lectures and photo reviews, local photographers and art curators provide additional engagement and context of Cuba’s performing arts and culture.
The photography experience culminates with a celebration of each participant’s work with Havana’s arts and creative community, supported by Fototeca de Cuba and its director, Nelson Ramirez de Arellano Conde, in attendance.
Have you ever wondered what the life of a working photojournalist or documentary photographer is like? If you had a week in a new city or country could you create a visual story worthy of being published, and turned in on deadline?
Participants work in small groups of two to three and immerse themselves in a documentary approach to storytelling, producing a cohesive body of work.
The objective of this “Backstage Cuba” series is for each participant to produce a tangible body of work that stands as a compelling project or narrative on its own merit, rather than a collection of random snap-shots or touristy images.
- Approaches to developing a visual story
- Going beyond the familiar to create unique and compelling images
- Planning your day around photography; how to gain access and manage logistics.
- Finding Authentic moments.
- Understanding the importance of curiosity in photography
- Editing for the traveling photographer
- nine-night, single occupancy accommodations at a premium Casa Particular
- Airport pickup and drop-off
- All meals, beverages (including alcoholic), and snacks, including celebratory dinners
- All transportation while in Havana in private cars or cabs
- Daily, on-site mentorship and progress reviews from Rudy Gonzalez, and Raúl Cañibano
- Evening lectures from prominent local art curators and photographers
- Backstage access to four or five venues for extended periods of time, as it relates to the Backstage Cuba program, e.g., ballet school, circus, artist studios, music rehearsals
- Daily instructor lead location shoots and assignments, with bi-lingual assistants
- Welcome night talk on “The History of Cuban Photography” by Fototeca de Cuba Director, Nelson Ramirez de Arellano Conde
- Closing night celebration and display of participant stories curated by program faculty
- WiFi connection (where available) or Internet cards for up to 2 hours of online connectivity per day
- Round-trip airfare to Havana
- Insurance for your personal photography equipment
- Medical insurance while visiting Cuba, included with your airfare if traveling from the United States. Please refer to the FAQ section for more details
- Personal expenses – gifts, souvenirs, or activities not included in the program itinerary
- Cuba travel card required for American citizens, needs to be purchased prior to boarding your Havana bound flight if flying from the United States. Cost for a travel card ranges from $50 to $100 depending on the carrier airline
- Cuban visa for non-American participants, must be obtained from the Cuban Consulate in the country of your residence
Note: A $250 per person double-occupancy supplement is available for couples or participants sharing a room
Can I legally travel to Cuba?
We travel under the General License “Support for the Cuban People.” This general license category is one of 12 categories that allow legal travel to Cuba for US citizens and is not being restricted with the new changes. Additional information regarding General Licenses for travel to Cuba can be found here.
Do travelers who fall within the scope of a General License need to submit a written request to OFAC for permission to travel or conduct transactions?
No further permission from OFAC is required to engage in transactions by a person who meets all criteria in a General License. We will travel under the general license “Support for the Cuban People.” A General License authorizes persons subject to U.S. jurisdiction, including travel agents and tour group operators, to provide travel services in connection with authorized travel without the need for specific licenses from OFAC.
What about the recently announced changes by the U.S. Administration on travel to Cuba?
There have been two amendments to CACR by the US administration in 2019. Details for the announcements made on June 5, 2019 and September 9, 2019 can be found here. Neither of these amendments affect travel authorized under the currently sanctioned General Licenses, including “Support for the Cuban People.”
What are Cuban visa and health insurance requirements?
The Cuban government requires all visitors entering Cuba carry non-US medical insurance. This coverage is usually included as part of your airfare for flights originating in the United States. You may choose to purchase additional coverage through a U.S. insurance provider – especially travel cancellation insurance or for travelers over the age of 80. It is critical that you retain your flight boarding pass as proof of medical insurance. It is recommended to obtain supplemental insurance to cover medical evacuation if that is necessary.
What type of accommodations will be used?
We will stay in a premium Casa Particular, a private home or hotel run by the people of Cuba (similar to Bed and Breakfasts in the US). These will include air conditioning, single-occupancy rooms with private showers. Some houses have WiFi, most don’t. Internet outages are common and power cuts are possible. This is a reality in Cuba, which we will need to adapt to. However, we will stay in neighborhoods and houses that are completely safe and your Casa will be clean and adequately comfortable.
What should I bring?
Please bring all of your personal photography gear that you think you might need. Electrical outlets in Cuba are similar to the 110V outlets found in the US. It is required that you have your personal computer with photo software on the trip as you will be editing and reviewing images with faculty members. Backup hard disks to store your work are strongly recommended.
Please have comfortable walking or running shoes with you as we will spend several hours on foot each day. A light rain jacket is a must in Cuba for shelter from the elements at unexpected times. If you are under any prescription medication, you are advised to carry enough dosage to last you an extra 3-4 days.
Will I need cash? How are currency exchanges handled?
U.S. credit and debit cards generally do not work in Cuba. Bring cash to cover any personal expenses or just to have some extra currency. The Cuban government requires that travelers declare cash amounts over $5,000 USD. Travelers should note that the Government of Cuba charges a 10 percent fee for all U.S. dollar cash conversions; this does not apply to electronic transactions or cash conversions in other currencies. Conversions can be made at an official foreign exchange facility licensed by the Cuban government.
What is the cancellation policy?
Because this trip is happening in March 2020, we are asking for the full payment to secure your spot. Cancellations made up to 90 days or more prior to departure will be given a 50% refund. Cancellations made within 90 days of the trip will result in a complete forfeiture of program fees.
Can I extend my stay?
Trip extensions desired beyond the program itinerary can certainly be made possible. Depending on your specific situation and needs, arrangements can be made at an additional cost.
I have more questions
Please get in touch by email at firstname.lastname@example.org, or call +1 404-398-5049
Cuba trips need logistics, advance preparation, and in some cases, administrative paperwork. For these reasons, bookings for this journey must be made at least 45 days prior to the commencement date as listed. Cancellations made within 30 days of this journey’s start date (March 27th, 2020) will lead to full forfeiture of payment.
Pick up and drop off will be provided from Havana airport
Shooting and light conditions change dramatically so fast lenses f/2 or faster are ideal for all lighting scenarios (including low light and interiors). Depending on your personal style or choice prime or zoom lenses that offer coverage of 24mm – 90mm is a very good range. You are welcome to shoot with any camera of your choice, but having a backup second body is a good idea. A small travel tripod is also ideal for early morning and evening photography.
Medium to High — While there are no strenuous hikes or climbs, we will spend a lot of time on the streets and walk several hours almost every day. Participants are requested to bring comfortable walking or training shoes.