eing a member of the Camera Club of New York for the past four years has helped expose me to a wide variety of photgraphic styles and processes. Formed by Alfred Stieglitz in 1895, the Camera Club has a rich tradition of promoting photgraphy as an art form. During my exploration of some of its history and some of its historic membership I became interested in Alvin Langdon Coburn, Symbolist photographer, distant cousin to F. Holland Day, a club member and assistant to Gertrude Kaesibier, also a member. I felt a real connection with his soft images and our mutual Japanese influence and passion for the craftsmanly quality of the photograph.

I was exposed to some of the work of current members with plastic toy cameras (the Diana and Holga 120S) and immediately had a affinity with the imagery. I quickly started using the Holga as it is currently produced but the Diana was harder to come by. I searched flea markets and photo shows. During this time, the opportunity arose to travel to Cuba, and so a friend and I made arrangements. About a week before our trip I found a Diana at a photo show. It was really perfect timing. I had envisioned images with the cameras, feeling it would be very appropriate for this land of bright sunlight and rich texture. I think it brings out the poetic quality of the lives we experienced during our travels there.

Our May, 1995 trip to Cuba was an exciting excursion filled with new sights and experiences. I was quite drawn to the open and kind nature of the people, many of whom when asked if they spoke English replied, "more or less." However, communication was more than satisfactory with their enthusiastic tries and my high school Spanish.

The people with whom we spoke were open with their growing disapproval of Castro, and you could feel that they were torn with the whole idea of the tourist. Certainly, they wanted the U.S. dollar now that they could use it, but all of Castro's improvements seem to go for tourism, while the people remain very poor and the cities crumble from neglect and disrepair.

At the beginning of our visit, we hired one of the many entrepreneurial driver/tour guides available and set out for Miramar, a province populated with many of the foreign embassies and private homes of the more middle-class citizens. As we wandered our way around Miramar looking for some place to have some lunch, we were welcomed into the home of Raul, a retired doctor, and his wife, Olga, who treated us as though we were long time friends. We all exchanged a tiny bit of our life stories and ate a delicious meal of lobster paella that seemed to come from nowhere.

Our guide in Trinidad was quite fluent in English, although Ramone would always apologize for his grammar, which he told us he learned from American movies. He was a very intelligent and knowledgeable individual. Especially of his native Trinidad, "a land baked in time," as he put it. The entire towns streets are made of natural cobblestones, not the cut stones of the rest of the island. He showed us the cigar factories (of course), the churches, markets and museums that border Marti Park in the village central. Ramones' passion for conversation and news of life off the island was a delight. He seemed to be someone who would love to travel from his country and would surely enrich the outside world, and all the people he came in touch with because of his enthusiasm.

All in all, the trip was an eye-opener for me. I was extremely impressed by the Cubans' ability to be so non-judgmental about themselves, their ability to seperate people and governments, and seeing that each has his or her own way of dealing with the trials of every day life. I felt very welcome in Cuba and look forward to another journey there.

Robert Vizzini
Photographer

Robert Vizzini is a photographer and designer living New York City.

His work has been shown in many group exhibits, including the Phoenix Gallery, Blue Mountain Gallery and Soho Photo Gallery, all of New York City. He also had a solo exhibition in the Synchronicity Space, also in New York.

In 1995, Robert placed in the Top 100 Photographers in the Ernst Hass Annual Photography Awards. Among others, he has been published in Popular Photography, Creative Classroom, interactions and the Best of Photography Annual 1994.

He is a member of the Camera Club of New York, Photographic Society of America, and is represented by nonstock Inc.

To see more of his work, visit his Web site: www.robertvizzini.com

Robert may be contacted via email at:

Equipment:
Holga 120S and Diana-F cameras

Film and processing
Tmax 100, processed with Ilford Bromophen, 1:9 for 5 minutes at 68 degrees F

Paper and processing:
Forte, polywarmtone, semi-matt fibre base paper, developed in Kodak Dektol 1:2, toned with Kodak sepia toner.