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Campesino Cuba

Campesino Cuba

by Richard Sharum

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Photographer Richard Sharum travelled across Cuba to document the lives of isolated farmers, or ‘Campesinos,’ and their wider communities at a time of national transition. In 2015, Sharum began researching Campesino communities — the histories of these communities have formed the backbone of Cuba — and his resulting black and white photographs depict the intertwined relationship of people and the land they depend on.

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Over the course of several journeys between January 2016 and November 2019, Sharum travelled from the northern to the southern shorelines, across to the western provinces, and to the eastern villages deep in the Sierra Maestra region of Cuba to complete his project.

Sharum, as an American, had always been intrigued by Cuba — a country still severely restricted to it citizens and under a broad embargo put in place by the US government over sixty years ago. He had wanted to add his own testament to the visual representation of the island. In the beginning, his interest lay with investigating the migration of the young male agricultural workforce from rural communities — farming tobacco, coffee, sugarcane, cattle and marine harvests — to urban areas. Since the advent of the internet, rural districts have witnessed an exodus of young men in search of better financial opportunities, or to escape a life of back-breaking labour and general solitude. With Cuba in a near perpetual food shortage, the cascading effect from less agricultural labour has grim implications for future generations.

As Sharum travelled more within Cuba, he expanded and shifted the project to encompass the lives of all Campesinos he encountered in the communities, including the role of women and children, for whom he developed a great appreciation and respect. The book includes essays by Cuban historian Aldo Daniel Naranjo and writer Domingo Cuza Pedrera (who grew up as a Campesino), allowing their words to speak for their own experience and country.

Published September 2021
290 x 219 mm, 208 pages
106 duotone images
ISBN 978-1-910401-62-0

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  • Richard Sharum is a documentary photographer based in the Dallas, Texas area whose work focuses on socio-economic or social justice dilemmas. His work has been exhibited in Kyoto, Japan; Sao Paulo, Brazil; Reggio Emilia, Italy; New York, and Dallas, US and is held in both private and public collections. He has been commissioned by The Meadows Foundation, Harvard Law School, Children's Cancer Fund, Notre Dame School and Family Gateway in Dallas, amongst others.  His photographs have been featured in numerous publications including The Atlantic, Texas Monthly, The New York Times Lens Blog, PATRON, The International Business Times, Glasstire, Deseret and Spacing Toronto Magazine.

    In 2015 and 2016, he initiated the Observe Dallas Project, an outdoor exhibition which served as a catalyst for a city-wide conversation on the homeless population, and for which he was awarded the Cultural Projects Grant. He was a finalist for the ICP / GOST First Photo Book Award in 2019 and became a XXXII Eddie Adams Alumnus in upstate New York.

  • 'I was not interested in giving credence to expected topics such as renowned political figures, classic cars or the colourful streets of Havana. I was more interested in taking a long and detailed look at the most isolated population group and their position in Cuban history. For this I knew I had to get deep into the land where the blood meets the soil and spend years with those not easily seen. I wanted to see Cuban’s as they were and in a way which forbade any memory of what I had been told about them.'

    - Richard Sharum