When was the moment you knew it was going to be Cuba?
The first day I was there. I went with a group through The Center for Cuban Studies. I arrived in Havana and was out photographing and everything was interesting. There was an incredible openness in the people and the physicality of the city was that way too. The way the architecture was set up, the doors opened onto the street, so it was like walking into somebody's home. I would approach, and people would say, "Come on in." I shot so much film on the first day, I thought, "I'm not going to have enough film." The thing about photography back then is that there were still places that had not been photographed much. It doesn't really work that way anymore.
Can you tell us more about the openness of the people and their relationship to the camera?
Well, to begin with, the people in Cuba are warm. And this was before cell phones. Cameras didn't even exist there, or they did, but on a very limited scale. There was none of that camera fatigue. When I look at the pictures, and at the people, there was something about the way that they looked back at me that said something about the energy that I was putting out there, some sort of emotional exchange. It shows how you come at somebody — if you're open, you're not being aggressive and if you're respectful. With all of those portraits, I would ask them before I took their picture. They would look back at me and they wouldn't change a thing. That was amazing.
You took over 25,000 analog photographs on over 3,000 roles of medium format film. It seems like you were almost addicted.
Yes it does! With that sort of street, or documentary photography, you can never hesitate. You have to be completely present and ready to shoot something quickly, and not question it. You have to go with your instincts. It becomes a reflex. It's kind of like that point where you're learning a language and you don't have to think about it anymore. Watching, responding… watching, responding. Also I felt like I needed to document everything, and see every part of the island. So it was also about exploring.