March 2013



Albino Horse

Artist’s Statement

In January of 1998 I traveled to Havana with a freelance photojournalism visa from the Village Voice to photograph the historic visit of Pope John Paul II. I had no idea what to expect. How did a country operate without capitalism? Because of the United States’ embargo, it had been more than 40 years since U.S. citizens were allowed to travel to Cuba. I wondered why? I wondered what the place looked like and what the people were like?

I read everything I could by Ernest Hemingway, Grahame Greene, Gabriel Garcia Marquez, Alejo Carpentier and James Michener but I still had no idea whether to expect taxis to be waiting once I cleared the airport.

I remember being intimidated by the machine-gun toting guards as I made my way through the dimly lit, two lane, cold war era, immigration entry point with David Alan Harvey whom I had encountered in the Cancun Airport.

With 1,000 rolls of Kodachrome left from a previous grant, I returned to Cuba many times over the next three years. I enrolled in Havana University, documented key industries as well as everyday life on the street.

I remember taxis sidling up quietly and drivers whispering: “Taxi?” And other cabbies insisting we drive with the tinted windows rolled up, though it was suffocatingly hot, so the cops didn’t see us. Turns out there were different taxis for Cubans and tourists.

I met and photographed Ernest Hemingway’s former boat captain, members of the Buena Vista Social Club, dancers, artists and athletes. I documented Saturday night keg parties, martyrs on their way to a leper colony, psychiatric hospitals and the first legal Christmas midnight mass in 40 years. I remember instead of matches, Cuban government offices put packets of sugar in the ash trays.

I traveled the length and breadth of the country photographing life and picking up hitchhikers along the way.

In 1999, after leaving a photo presentation Harvey had given in Havana, I met a Mestiza named Leonida walking along the Malecon. We started dating. She invited me to her home in Central Cuba to meet her grandparents and friends.

My last visit to Cuba was during the summer of 2000. I arrived in Havana and together we traveled by train to Santiago de Cuba where I photographed Carnivale. For the next three years, I sent money to Leonida every three months, and in 2003, she finally arrived in the U.S. and we were married in Green Bay, Wisconsin, in front of my friends and family. After nine months she returned to Cuba ostensibly to renew her visa. Over the phone, she told me the Cuban authorities were not allowing her to return to the U.S. because of the Elian Gonzales episode. In time, I learned this was not true. Whether it was because her grandmother was dying or life in the U.S. was not what she expected or I was not who she had hoped for or all of the above, she no longer came to the phone and I have not heard from her since.




Daniel Kramer is an American photographer born in Green Bay, Wisconsin, in 1964. He has a B.A. in Journalism from the University of Minnesota and an M.F.A. in Documentary Photojournalism from the Academy of Art College. Kramer currently lives in Houston, Texas, where he teaches photography at Rice University’s School of Continuing Education. He has worked for NewsweekThe New York Times and The Wall Street Journal. Two photographs from his Cuba portfolio are in the permanent collection of the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, and twenty-five images were exhibited at the International Photography Gathering in Aleppo, Syria.