For Cuban photographer Alfredo Sarabia telling stories through the lens is a passion, a way to relate and understand reality in order to then show it from a different point of view.
His current work’s emphasis is on using his camera to tell the story of the picturesque town of Hershey located in Santa Cruz del Norte in the province of Mayabeque that lies to the west of Havana half way towards Matanzas. It all began in 2013, Sarabia tells Cubaplus, when a conversation with colleagues about the town and its connections with the famous Hershey chocolate brand led to the idea to visit the place. One of the driving forces behind his work has always been to investigate and rediscover places that bring him interesting stories to tell.
“This is a project that I’m still working on,” he says, “Because everything changes as time passes, including the way I see art. Hershey is disappearing little by little, the sugar factory that was the centre of its economic and social life for more than a century is no longer there.”
“That sugar factory was decommissioned, practically demolished, and the town has ended up shrouded in a sadness and a melancholy that are palpable. And yet, those very characteristics give the place a charm that from my point of view make it very interesting to share through photography.”
“From there I decided to get to know this micro universe in a series of images that revolve around the journey on the electric train that’s known by the same name as the town. Both of them were named after the man who was the owner and the creator of the industrial, architectural and transport infrastructures of that place over a century ago. There are also portraits of the town’s inhabitants.”
“A lot of the time I try to go with a preconceived idea of what I want, but I always let the space speak in my work and let it permeate what I’m living. I’m feeling the place. Photography has this singularity that other art forms don’t, I think, which is that you work and at the same time you live the experience. I always try to combine these experiences with what I consider art.” “The first part of my work is entitled Vía Regia, about the only electric train that is still in service in Cuba. It’s already on show at an open exhibition in the central [Cuban] city of Santa Clara. In a few months it will also be on show in Havana,” says Sarabia.
He also explains that this series turned out very visually suggestive, showing the route from Havana to Hershey, the towns and landscapes through which this train passes. Its real intention, though, is to show more than the physical journey, the spiritual journey and the journey through time.
The photos allow the viewer to appreciate something more than movement through space, and that is the artist’s true interest, and the reason for the title Vía Regia.
Sarabia knows that realizing his vision is a longterm project, and his intention is that the passage of time will contribute to the meaning of the series. For now Hershey is still in his sights, placid, letting itself go as time passes, spontaneous and natural under the sensitive gaze of this Cuban photographer.