Friday, 30 March 2012

Spare Beauty: The Cuban Kitchen

"The Picture Show" is a page on the NPR website of photo essays, photos from around the world people submit with a comment to explain their story. I look at it fairly frequently, it is intriguing and always fascinating. Yesterday I saw a collection of photos about kitchens in Cuba by Ellen Silverman.

There were many reasons I was so attracted to these photos having designed many kitchens, some posh and great, some humble and old, just getting a new coat of paint. Another reason is I am in the middle of renovating my kitchen, my apartment is in an old building and with the change of the boiler, cabinets removed and striping off old wallpaper, my own kitchen looks similar to these humble and human kitchens in Cuba.

But more than the similarity to my renovation is the beauty and simplicity. I often find beauty is from within, for a kitchen is where we cook and prepare food, it is more than yards of exotic granite and powerful appliances it is where we sit and nourish ourselves and feed our loved ones.

Ellen is a food photographer and in her travels to Cuba over the past couple of years she was captivated by the elegant but decrepit old buildings. After being invited in, from her statement she explains:

"I began to see the beauty of these sparse kitchens created from necessity by the people who live in these exceedingly difficult circumstances. It forced me to confront the profound difference between what my eye saw, my desire to make beautiful, strong images, and the reality people’s situations."

The composition of Ellen's photos are beautiful, she captures in her frame a balance of light, the "natural and organic arrangement" of vessels and utensils and the color of faded paint. Her images are strong but so touched by humanity.

I grew up in Miami where there are many Cuban emigrants and one of the delights is their food, I can so easily imagine the rice and black beans cooking, the cafe con leche and tostadas. And also when my daughter lived in Tulum Mexico, when I visited her we made guacamole in a sparse kitchen.

This photo reminds me of the movie, A Street Car Named Desire.

What more do we need, nourishment and a song. Please view this poignant collection of photos from Ellen Silverman's website

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