IMAGES UNDER THE LIGHT OF AN OIL LAMP Por: Redacción IPS Cuba IPS Cuba makes an exclusive interview to Quinqué (oil lamp), a collective blog project in the web with photography and creativity as mottos. The night that tough character of apelike clumsiness came close to fire and did the impossible to keep it burning, we stepped away a bit further from the rest of the species in Earth. Today human beings look for ways to gather together around a fire, preserving a ritual that takes us closer to that epoch in which nature and collective memory were our only weapons. Centuries of agriculture, metal alloy, gunpowder and later electricity, the oil lamp, that device of round burner that appeared half way to modern age, is still a recurring spare object in every Cuban house today; no so much for its liturgical resonance, but for the memory of a recent past in which every Cuban men and women almost played to the man of the caverns. In November, a group of youngsters created a blog called Quinqué, a collective project on photography that, under the premises of modern times and its tools, calls back to the ancient act of looking at things through others, some sort of contemporary screaming that tells the (S)story(ies) through their lenses. Interested in the promising worked developed in such a short period of time, we asked them to put aside their cameras for an instant and talk to us. “It is known that photographic work, for its nature, is individual. And so it is for us too, but in our chance encounters the common interests in photography lead us to an interesting dialogue. What did we have to offer to others? Could it change us to look from a different perspective? How many Cuban photographers display their work on the web? How to find them? These and other questions made us realize about the need of a space of our own. Thus, broadly speaking, we got to this collective photography work. “In principle what brings us together as a group is the pretension that people will get our pictures, to have a space not limited to a social network. Putting the blog as the core of our project is part of a planned communicative strategy. What makes us different and at the same time enriches us as a group, is the variety of purposes behind the lenses, a training that goes from empiric to academic, the fact of having in our group art graduates, engineers, and an artist. The protagonists of the project “Angel is an engineer in telecommunications. He designed our blog and contributed a lot in the making up of our identity. A few months ago he started at Havana’s Creative Photography School. He is by far the most passionate of the group, his patient and devoted perspective allows him to make his images more human. “Beatriz handles our strategy in the social networks and the web; we owe her the hit of Quinque. She has a degree in Social Communication, she teaches Digital Media at the Faculty of Communication at the University of Havana; her training in the field of photography is entirely empiric. Given her active and undertaking personality, she feels an urge for capturing images all the time, that’s why her look is never repeated and amazes most of the time.
“Karel is a civil engineer, though he is very good in web positioning. He works in the web development team in the website of the Trabajadores journal. With the more urgent need of taking pictures than enjoying a jazz concert, he is debating himself between creativity and formal studies in photography. He is the main actor in our web design. “Vazquez has a degree in French and works as tourist guide. He recently joined Havana’s Creative Photography School and he is one of the champions of the Cuban identity in our blog. He has an increasingly growing interest in photography. He is enthusiastic and uninhibited, with a bit of humor; he adds value to the website with his posts. “Let’s say Raciel is, from the viewpoint of photographic theory and practice, the heavyweight of the group, with a professional career and several personal exhibitions. He majored in Plastic Arts and Computer Science, he teaches photography at the Faculty of Communication. He is serious, polite and modest (he probably disagrees with the heavyweight comment), his honesty behind the lenses is truly enviable. “Judging by our differences it is nothing but fair to hope for different themes. Some of us are in the midst of a learning and experimentation process, some others are not. Some are more prone to portraits, urban photography, photo report; others are more inclined towards minimalism, geometrics. If you take a closer look, our approach is not a dead end; we rather aim at constant exercise.” Reasons for Quinqué “If you take a quick look to the photographic proposal up to today, you would say it is an aesthetic project; if you look at Quinque as a group, you would say it is a social project, and that shall eventually set it. Nonetheless, it is necessary to acknowledge demarcation as a difficult exercise and it would sound to question its real need, where can they begin? what are the limits between aesthetic and social? Are the social and the aesthetic excluded? A good thing for Quinque is the fact that these two divisions are always interacting. “The basic target is to make visible our photographic proposals, but it is not the only one. In fact, by drawing the map of this blog, new interests come up which lead to new targets. By trying to answer our own questions, we had to make some research in the web, to locate dialogue spaces not just for exhibition, to find out where to get information on exhibits and how to find out about the work of other Cuban photographers. We found personal and institutional websites, but most of them aiming at showing and reporting about themselves and their work, instead of getting together and dialogue. There’s where we fit in, with a website that is also open for guest photographers, whether professionals or not. For some it will be a springboard, for others it will just be another website, for many it will be a space where they can find information on what is going on today in the field of photography in Cuba. For us, it is, in addition, a proposal that has brought about an incredible spontaneous reaction.
“As our logo we chose the image of an oil lamp because people gather around it, in places where there is no electricity as well as during blackouts. And what Cuban is not aware of the use of an oil lamp? Thus we launched our proposal from the Cuba of these times, as the Cubans we are, though are lenses are focused on different subjects. Pictures and internet, a fine marriage? “In the social networks we find the visitor-audience-consumer-actor. Instead of waiting to be found, to be visited; we go to them and tell them: we invite you to come, interact, join us, this is our space… have a good time. “Behind that is our strength as a group, the fact that we rely on people with expertise in communication and web positioning. The social networks have their own communication means and we have a broad knowledge about it. Today, Facebook, the social network of highest impact, is our main social center –it shocked us to reach 100 followers in the first day of the website–, also because of the treatment it takes. At the same time we turn to other more demanding websites like Twitter, Pinteresty Google+, these though of as a longer term strategy. “Launching a project of this kind on the web, it is known, poses a risk. In our case the need of sharing images is stronger than the fear of their wrongful use by third parties. Nowadays, the strategy has been the publication of low resolution images and the addition of a water mark. Let’s hope that from now on the issue of authors’ right in digital environments saves us a better future. In the meantime we keep on publishing. “The fact that there are users leaving us pictures in our Facebook page came up naturally, precisely for the possibilities this social network has to offer. We know that the readers’ reaction, in this case leaving us their pictures and comments, is another way to measure somehow the reach of our project and from there redirect it or implement new strategies, or simply keep on working. We rely on statistics, a necessary but too cold tool, which provides us with figures and trends, but it is not as comforting as knowing that every time there are more followers not only eager for the formal and critical reading of our space, but also for healthy and affable exchange. That is one of the good things that “the sea brought.” “For the moment the digital environment is our main space, but, as the Cubans we are, one never knows. As we said, our way of doing things sets us new targets every time. Perhaps tomorrow our Quinque can go beyond the digital environment and we can see each others’ faces, of course for that purpose we would need a different communication strategy. But, even so, why not?