A catalog of errors
BY ROXANA CONSUEGRA, PHOTOS: COURTESY OF PEDRO ABASCAL
A beautiful visual of Havana’s bay from the window next to the entrance catches the visitor who arrives for the first time. Of course for a restless collector of unrepeatable moments, views that cannot be staged, only arousing the desire to contemplate, capture, possess them. A coffee becomes an invitation for the newcomer. We already have something in common.
Pedro Abascal is, in essence, one of the most prominent makers of photography in Cuba in recent decades. Successor of great masters of whom he feels fortunate to have known, such as Alberto Díaz (Korda), Raúl Corrales and Ramón Martínez Grandal, he recognizes in the latter the influence of who was his mentor. However, Abascal has a hallmark that characterizes and distinguishes him among its contemporaries. He is not a lover of large format. His language is intimate, private, like “a little poem to be read quietly to a select audience,” according to his tutor and friend Grandal. You discover the value of his work when repeated images, mirrors, relfections, thoughts and imagination. He finds that his work fulfils its task once it produces something in a person, when it becomes a selfie of the person contemplating it.
His attention focuses not on the wrinkles of the city, nor the heavenly spaces. Rather, his intuition goes to the problems of society, but not by default, but by chance, taking advantage of moments that can only be captured without prior notice or agreement, only when reality is perceived through the lens of a camera always in tow. His photos have a lot of humanity, however, his work is more about the photograph itself than the subject.
Composition is the fundamental axis of his work, marked by singular elements such as framing, the angle chosen and the contrasts. Abascal works light and shadow through black and white, but also color. Thus he separates his works in two folders (essays): Dossier Habana one, and Habana Color the other. They don’t contradict each other; each one has its expressive riches and above all, conceptual riches. In the second case the color is weighted, looking for the prevalence of brightness and light in order to bring our eyes closer to reality, to us, the human being.
It discusses, debates and unravels not what we know and see, but what underlies the ideas that move behind the “official” image. It is never one alone ... there is an optical game that at first sight can go unnoticed, but, if the gaze lingers, there is the true meaning, in what at first sight is rarely possible to identify.
The self-examining slant is a heavy, sometimes lighter, presence, it is enough to approach the snapshot to reveal the details. His childhood heavily influenced his work. The hours of waiting in the barbershop of the Havana Sports Casino, sat with mirrors in front and behind, provoked concerns in him about that image reflected again, again, and again: a kind of introspection, the image of the image, for that reason his work finds parallels with the meta-narrative and the repeated speech. He played in his mind imagining thousands of stories, of realities, all from those repeated images... mirrors, reflections, reflect, think, imagine.
He needs his work to be like a book, that it can be read, observed, that can be used whenever it is desired, that it can always offer new readings, thoughts and sensations, even when he comments, with extraordinary humility, that his images “are a catalogue of errors.”