The Kickstarter Blog

New Projects Are Furever

  1. Viva Cuba! Al Campo and Cuba Skate

         Fidel Rodriguez on his porch in Cuba, as photographed in Ernesto Bazan’s Al Campo

    For many Americans, Cuba is a mysterious land we can only assume to be as breathtaking as it is heartbreaking, but for at least two Kickstarter creators, Cuba’s uniquely vibrant culture is not just folklore, it’s reality. You cannot embargo energy, and no creators know that better than award-winning photographer Ernesto Bazan and skate enthusiasts Miles Jackson and Lauren Bradley. Bazan’s Al Campo project captures the Cuban countryside, photographing the unparalleled beauty of rural life, and Jackson and Bradley’s Cuba Skate documents a Havana skater scene that’d do Spike Jonze proud. We asked these creators to drop a little knowledge about life on the island and their passion for these projects.

    After traveling to Cuba in 1992, Bazan met his wife, had twins, and founded a photography workshop, settling in Cuba until they had to leave in 2006. With the help of his photography students, Bazan is publishing 88 color images of his last 5 years in the mythical land. 

    Al Campo, an intimate visual look at Cuban rural lifestyle — by Ernesto Bazan

    Ernesto, of all the daily rituals you practice in rural Cuba, do you have one you enjoy most? What about one a photo of one? What moves you in that image?

    Probably the ritual I enjoyed and miss the most is the one in which I’d bring a good bottle of rum whenever I’d visit my farmer friend Fidel Rodriguez’s home. He would  invariably ask me if I wanted to have a cigar rolled by him. I’d always say yes although I’ve never been a smoker. He would go find the best tobacco leaves in a stash he had and then he would skillfully roll them before my very eyes after deveining each one of them. He would hand it to me and give me light. We would sip rum, smoke cigars and talk about our lives.

    One of my favorite images is the one of Fidel sitting on a chair out on the porch smoking a cigarette while two dogs in front and behind him are looking out. What moves me about the image is that I feel that I managed to capture the essence of that intimate moment of relaxation and solitude. He seems to be pondering about his existence, what will come next.

    You mentioned your students are helping you make this book; what’s the best advice you’ve received from them? What’s some advice you give your students?

    My students have provided an amazing creative feedback, wonderful input on what images to eliminate, how to move certain parts of the sequence, how to improve the cover. If that wasn’t enough they have provided some of the financial support needed to bring this book to light. As I like to say, founding my workshop has been one of the best thing that I’ve done in my life. It has shaped my way of working, we have created a unique network of friends creating a very synergy.

    I try to teach them that a good image has to have the right combination of content and form that it has to come from within, that it needs to convey something spiritual. The teaching has taught all of us that the more we give the more we get something back in return. It never fails!

    Who are funnier, the Cubans or your hometown Sicilians? …Know any good jokes?

    I think both Cubans and Sicilians can be pretty funny people. Their jokes are sarcastic and ironic at the same time. Here goes one, which shows how tough life is on the island: There was this fried egg walking down the street, minding its own business. It hears some noise behind it, turns around, and sees a crowd of hungry Cubans in the distance bearing down on it. It runs away as fast as its little fried egg legs will go, when it sees a steak. It yells to the steak, “Run away! Run away! They’ll get you too!” but the steak just laughs and says, “They won’t even recognize me.”

    Cuba Skate: A Series of Short Skate Videos — by Cuba Skate!

       Skaters renovate a skate park in Havana as part of Jackson and Bradley’s Cuba Skate

    Last year, Jackson and Bradley traveled to Cuba through a University of Michigan study abroad program. They became entrenched in the local skateboarding scene and are returning to Havana with boards and gear to renovate the country’s only skate park and document a movement that defies expectations of an old world.

    Lauren, how did Miles and you first stumble upon the scene and that lone park?

    For our independent final project, Miles decided to research the skateboarding community, since he is an avid longboarder himself. Just from being out on the streets with his skateboard and his outgoing personality, Miles saw some kids on their boards in our neighborhood and decided to introduce himself. Although it started off as a school project, it became so much more than that. Getting to know these kids was the best part of our Cuban experience. We would hang out with them every day, usually out by the Fuente (an old plaza near the Malecón), but they would often invite us over for dinner with their families and now we consider ourselves a part of their family. Miles also somehow found Che Pando, who is an amazing tattoo artist and the godfather of Cuban skating. He gave us more insight into skating in Cuba since he was one of the first on the scene about 25 years ago. Che is the unofficial leader — the one that organizes competitions and the one foreigners seek out when they’re interested in contributing to the skate scene (Che speaks perfect English).

    When we were in Havana there was actually a different skate park called Pollevalente, but in the past year, the government forced them out because they claimed they wanted to use the space for something else. (When we went back, they still had yet to do anything with it). So the new skate park is farther out, but it’s nice because it is more secluded. While the location is great, the actual skate equipment is in great disrepair and pretty dangerous. There are so many cracks, gaps, and pot holes that the skaters have to be aware of when skating, as they don’t want to risk breaking their boards not knowing when another one might come along.

    Any specific skaters stick out in your mind as supremely awesome young guns?

    Yes, absolutely! I can think of so many that just have that straight up passion for skating, but one really sticks out, and that’s Reinaldo Vicet Reyes. He is only 15 years old and he’s already been skating for 5 or 6 years. He almost always places in the skate competitions he’s in, even the Redbull sponsored skate competitions they have twice a year. Not only is he an amazing skater, but he is also a really great kid. His house is basically a tiny room with a few dividers for the bedroom that he and his mom share, plus a bathroom. But, while he lives in a way that many Americans can’t even imagine, he is an incredible skater and has been asked to participate in competitions abroad in Spain. Unfortunately since he’s under 18, he isn’t even allowed to apply for a travel license, which he probably wouldn’t get anyway. There is also this skater Fernando who is as pro as it gets in Cuba. He is probably about 19 years old, and he is supposed to be moving to Miami to pursue skating. Since he has family in Miami, it should be a little easier for him to move out of Cuba.

    You can support these projects here: Al Campo, Cuba Skate.

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  2. Random Ninjas Would Like to Thank You

    I sincerely wish that LA-based rock band Random Ninjas had been around when I was a ten-year-old throwing tantrums about having to write “Thank You” cards after Christmas. They could have taught me a thing or two about what it means to be appreciative, and how to have a lot of fun while doing it. The lively bunch have lately been posting a series of sweet “Thank You” videos for their backers, in which they express their gratitude through dance parties, silly songs, and … is that a plastic grenade launcher?! I think it is.

    So, I guess what I’m ultimately trying to say is: thanks guys. Thanks for showing me how it’s done right. My Mom thanks you, too. Check out their ongoing project here, or be like me and watch the video, over and over again while you work.

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