We first met Rupert last year on the patio of the Taberna de la Muralla, the brew pub in Plaza Vieja in Old Havana. I was there with a professional photographer from Barcelona and a friend from England. At the next table, we saw a very large Englishman sporting some very large cameras and began a conversation with him.
He told us that he was visiting from England and that photography was his hobby. Knowing how photogenic Havana is, we were not surprised. What did surprise us was the remarkable quality of his work.
Born in Portsmouth, England, in 1962, he has lived in Hampshire, apart from one year in Cuba, all of his life. He took courses in jewellery design and photography at an art school in Southampton before ending up with a "one man and a spade" construction business. He has worked in the building and restoration trade, as an antique restorer and owner of an antique shop, a sculptor, and a designer and manufacturer of jewellery.
He first visited Cuba in 1997 on vacation with a friend. "The trip lasted six weeks but within a few days I fell in love with the country, the people, their hardships, passions, pride, culture and identity, and their ability to make the most out of absolutely everything! I was hooked and I knew I would be back," Rupert told Cubaplus.
Since then, Rupert has returned several times, first with a Canon T90 and a "not-so-good" 50mm lens. He married his Cuban wife in 2000 at the Palacio de los Matrimonios in Old Havana and the family moved to England in 2001.
He returned to Cuba in 2004 and again last year, but this time with better equipment, and this is when he took these extraordinary photos.
"The last time I visited Cuba, I finally began to take the photos that revealed the stories that I wanted to tell. Photography is an all-consuming passion with my field being the study of people in every day situations. I believe that the eyes are the 'mirror of the soul' and the camera has the power to empathise or to misuse those inner moments.
The art of the photographer, of course, is to capture the bimage without damaging the purity of the moment." Mr. Vernon-Smith uses a Canon EOS Iv and shoots in black and white with Ilford HP5 Plus and Delta 400 Professional and in colour with Fuji Pro 160S.
He is happily married, with three children, and continues to live in Hampshire and has aspirations to be a professional documentary photographer. To contact Rupert or to see more of his photos of Cuba, please visit www.cubaporcuba.com & www.flickr.com/photos/cubaporcuba.