Experimenting with Abstact Photography in Cojimar, Cuba

When we drove into the small marina in Cojimar,* the town that inspired Hemingway’s Old Man and the Sea, I expected the wooden boats, the bait and the fish, and the fisherman with their rough hands and tanned skin. What I didn’t expect were the bold graphics and textures I found in the form of storage units that lined one side of the complex.

Photographing graphics and abstracts in cojimar, cuba-982801

Battered and lopsided, patched and hammered, and held together with bubblegum and twine, I was drawn to the vivid colors and patterns that made the row of sad shacks come to life.

I’ve never really had a knack for shooting abstracts but these buildings became my kindergarten. The colors and lines was so bold I couldn’t miss them, heck, they practically took photos of themselves.

Photographing graphics and abstracts in cojimar, cuba-983302

Photographing graphics and abstracts in cojimar, cuba-987408

These images will never end up in a gallery, but taking them gave me a taste of something I want to explore.

Here, you’ll see more of the classic Cojimar: The fishermen, a celebrated shark (or what was left of him), and a crazy crab, but in this post I wanted to share some images that were more of an experimentation. A nod towards the abstract.

Photographing graphics and abstracts in cojimar, cuba-984905

Photographing graphics and abstracts in cojimar, cuba-984104

I believe in experimentation, though I rarely do it as often as I would like. Playing with composition, angles, lighting, shutter speed, can elicit the most interesting results. Ninety percent is likely to be crap but 10% of something unique definitely ups your game.

Photographing graphics and abstracts in cojimar, cuba-990901

My inspiration for this kind of play came from a  workshop I took with Brett Erickson, who suggested we always try to take pictures from varying perspectives and while doing so, pay close attention to how the story changes. It’s not brain surgery, but whenever I slow myself to consider thise advice, I tend to shoot better, no matter the subject.

I really had a good time shooting these “abstracts.” Are they masterpieces? Hell no. But they forced my eye to see differently. I told myself to look for shapes and contrasts I might not normally notice.

And for that alone, for me, they are a resounding success.

Check Out On the Heels of Hemingway


*The images above were taken while an invited guest of the Santa Fe Photographic Workshops. The writing and sentiment are my own.

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