John Harden, Cuba through an English lens
By: Cosset Lazo Pérez / Photos courtesy John Harden
John Harden is a British photographer who is inspired by Cuba - the country’s architectural diversity, its immense natural spaces and its cultural traditions. Through his camera he captures the Caribbean nation’s past, present and future.
Spiral staircases, rural and marine landscapes and even the sensuality of lilies feature as subjects of his work in the Cuban archipelago, a constant source of inspiration. Harden’s photos combine existentialism with fiction and mysticism.
At only 10 years of age he first ventured into the fascinating world of images, likely without being fully aware of what he was doing. Speaking with Cubaplus, the artist born in a country town in the UK in 1940 recalls that he won his first photo contest when was he was only 11 years old.
Coming from a family with no artistic proclivity, Harden cultivated his self-taught talents and photographed whatever caught his attention, particularly a group of friends who played guitar and sang on the beach to earn extra money.
The unexpected theft of his camera silenced his vocation for 40 years. After 18 years in Britain, he traveled to Italy where he worked as an English teacher for three decades.
Invited by an Italian friend he took his first trip to Cuba in 1997, one which he would repeat for short periods until one day he decided to settle on the island where he found spaces, colours and diversity that enriched his work.
This special relationship between the artist and the Caribbean archipelago inspired many works, among them the exhibition En la sombra de la Ceiba, a product of his experiences with the Cuban musical group Yoruba Andabo.
The Afro-Cuban Orishas deities and their related rituals, songs and dances were captured through his lens, and in turn encouraged learning, vital for the development of a good artist.
Each of Harden’s snapshots tells a story and awakens the desire to know more about the particular universe of the African ancestors’ inherited culture. Meanwhile, the Luz y Malecón exhibition recreates Havana’s urban landscape through contrasts of light and shadow that accentuate the capital’s everyday life.
The Caribbean Sea’s intense blue color, sometimes gray on cloudy days, caught the artist’s attention. He does not stereotype conceptual limits but rather brings out original, simple and artistic value through his work.
His most recent photos, compiled in a book, also include a self-portrait with very particular techniques that illustrate the emotions and stages of life, of aging.