Humberto Mayol: Memory of a country
BY MARLEN BORGES, PHOTOS: COURTESY OF THE ARTIST
Emotions, experiences and poetry emerge regularly from the photographic lens of Humberto Mayol, an artist who, from a social and symbolic dimension, offers us an extensive and affectionate visual portrait of his country, Cuba.
In over four decades of work by this graphic artist, we see a reflection of his passion for his land, its customs, religions, historical facts, its colors, dances and customs, which he captures with images full of meanings that come face to face with our motivation and empathy.
Mere seconds that immortalize moments of life with the brilliant use of techniques and the astuteness of photography. His extensive work is captured in two large series, La memoria compartida and Espacios cotidianos.
The first one covers all my analogical work in black and white, from the end of the 1970s to the beginning of 2004, and the second one, from that year to date, only digital and color photography, says the artist. His main sources of inspiration are the human being, his essence, conflicts, his individual and collective universe.
My work is conditioned by the very essence of photography. Stopping time, unrepeatable instants become a visual memory of my time, with anthropological features, portraying people in the cultural and social environment to which they belong, but also with a subjective narrative of my own look, Mayol explains.
His materials are lights and shadows, shaped through a photographic camera, analog or digital, taken to the analog darkroom or the digital white room, where he manipulates them until he gets the image he has in his head.
“Through my photos, I want to show us, to recognize us, to stop being invisible, to express respect, conciliation. To provoke reflection on the value of all lives, that they remain in the memory.” “I believe that more than a style, it is a craft of looking for the image, a subject, an environment, an action, feelings, from a personal point of view.” The profession embraced him and his brother, Carlos Roberto, while very young, coming from the hands of their father, photographer Humberto Mayol Roa.
“I remember myself as a child running through the darkroom, amid the smells of chemicals, which he shared with other colleagues, many of them dedicated to lambio, photographing in places of entertainment and also in social events where they were not hired, but if they arrived on time and were lucky they could sell their work.”
“Years later, now a young man unsure what I was going to do with my future, my father wisely put a camera in my hand, so I started taking pictures and it led me to spend time in the laboratory, to learn the secrets of that alchemy. There, naturally, I found myself, that was my destiny.”
In 1976 he began his work in the field. The capital’s propaganda media and publications such as Tribuna de La Habana and Bohemia, in the latter as section chief, were witnesses to his professionalism. It was during this period that he studied journalism, graduating in 1988.
In the following years, Mayol’s creative work included his work as a photojournalist and professor in Venezuela and in various agencies of the Ministry of Culture. In 2010 he began working as director of photography for Proyecto Palomas, a production house of the Instituto del Arte e Industria Cinematográficos (ICAIC).
“From the early 1990s to date there is a duality that has marked my passage through photography, my link with projects and institutions inside and outside the country for which I have worked, and my work as an author, which is about personal interests and motivations.”
The artist’s work has been shown in around 60 group exhibitions and some 30 personal exhibitions in Cuba and countries like France, Germany, Spain, Japan, China, Canada, the United States, Mexico, Venezuela and Argentina, among others.
Mayol, who includes to his credit several documentaries and the digital book Soy Cuba, advises young people starting out to have discipline, dedication and to observe what others do and how they do it, to then find their own look.