You can’t talk about photography in Cuba without mentioning someone whose work has pushed him to the top of a select group of lens artists.
But Julio Larramendi doesn’t boast about his photography. On the contrary he is a modest man and very grateful to those who have stood by him and passed on their experiences, things he says have helped him a lot in his work. Larramendi deserves everyone’s recognition, because his dedication and above all his good eye for a snapshot have placed him among the essential figures of the world of photography.
Born in Santiago de Cuba quite a few years ago, Larramendi doesn’t know or doesn’t dare to define himself as from Santiago or Havana since, he remarks with a little humor, that Santiagueros consider him a “traitor” for moving to the capital but to Habaneros he is a “Palestinian” (Havana slang for recently arrived internal migrants from the east of Cuba) but “in short,” he says with pride, “what I am is Cuban.”
A lover of physics, he decided to study chemistry in the former Soviet Union because his girlfriend at the time opted for that specialty. This made it possible for him to learn the art of photography.
While studying chemistry he also took photography classes, which facilitated his development in lenswork. After 27 years working in a photographic investigation laboratory, he arrived at retirement and devoted himself entirely to his passion: photography. Since then he has worked for several advertising agencies taking photos for publicity campaigns, commercials and magazines, including the now defunct “Sol y Son”, “Mar Caribe” and “Acuarela”. In 2007 he founded his own publishing house “Polymita”.
Polymita’s mission is to publish books with a focus on Cuba, and Larramendi has chalked up more than 60 books, which speak very well of his work. Another aspect of his life that he loves dearly is teaching.
He has always enjoyed it greatly and dedicates a large part of his time to imparting his photographic knowledge and experience to novices. “I didn’t have teachers as such in photography,” he said.
He is fundamentally self-taught. “But there were people from whom I learned,” he explained, “like Corrales, Korda and Liborio, some of the greats of Cuban photography.”
“I also learned a lot from Jorge Ramón Cuevas about Cuban biodiversity and nature,” he expands. “I have had the good fortune to learn a lot from eminent people like historian Alicia García Santana, 2014 National Literature Prize winner Zoila Lapique Becali, as well as Fernando López. And without a doubt from Eusebio Leal, official historian of Havana. “What little I have done I owe to them.
Without them I would be just another photographer. To them I owe what I have been able to do, and for that I am very grateful to them.”
And the people of Havana, one of the subjects to which he has dedicated his work, have been of great inspiration.
He has travelled through Havana thousands of times, by night, by day, in the afternoon, to observe the activity of its residents.
For Larramendi, Havana is the most cosmopolitan city on the island. People from many regions converge there: Europeans, Africans, Asians; from different cultures and religions. Each one has contributed something different.
That’s why it’s very picturesque. “You see street vendors of all kinds of articles, kitchen repairers, televisions, mattresses; people carrying water containers, with construction materials. In short, all this gives the city a very special taste,” he said.
“Cubans need to learn to value and take care of all of it: the rhythm, the humour, the mischief, the love of life. All of that,” he said lastly, “is what makes Havana so fascinating.”