This year marks the 60th anniversary of the Cuban Revolution (1953-1959), which culminated in the ousting of authoritarian Cuban President Fulgencio Batista and the establishment of a revolutionary communist regime led by Fidel Castro. Over time artists have reacted to, recorded, and reflected on the millions of lives impacted during the Revolution and in the years following.
Born in Havana in 1946, José A. Figueroa, has been a chronicler of daily life in the island nation for more than 40 years. Considered a part of the “transitional generation,” described by Cristina Vives -the artist’s wife- as too young to have been an active participant in the Revolution but old enough to witness it, his body of work offers a unique perspective of this time. He not only documents the historical significance of the years right after the Cuban Revolution, but offers an intimate look at his experience. Images of political figures like Fidel Castro and the Argentine revolutionary leader, Ernesto “Che” Guevara, armed soldiers, and numerous rallies abound in the historical record. In addition to these documentary photographs that speak to his experience as a photojournalist, Figueroa captures intimate snapshots of life in Cuba—he often portrays his family and close friends engaging in everyday activities. From the last portrait a family took together before leaving the island to images of children on the street, the artist has referred to his work as a “Cuban self-portrait;” representing with equal power individual experience and historical event.