Katinka Herbert explores Cuba’s political and socio-economic climate through portraits of the country’s young athletes. She shares her thoughts for this week’s Beyond the Frame. Katinka's striking image was shortlisted in the 2020 Open competition. More details on how you can enter at the end of this article.
Each individual is celebrated for his or her ability to move, be that to swing a bat, dance on stage or even to duck and weave in the boxing ring.
Most Cubans can’t move. They can’t leave Cuba. Their lives are limited to the shores of their sun-kissed island. While the communist regime retains a certain level of popularity among older generations, younger Cubans dream of a way out. Each of them plans their own means of escape. If one thing defines their lives, it’s the question of mobility.
In this series, I explore this subject through portraits of Cuba’s top athletes and performers. Each individual is celebrated for his or her ability to move, be that to swing a bat, dance on stage or even to duck and weave in the boxing ring. Whether their careers succeed or fail depends on their ability to control their own physical movement. If they succeed, they will be propelled onto a global platform. Their lives will suddenly be transformed by geographic, economic and social mobility. But most of them won’t move, they’ll remain fixed to the spot. Their chances of change will end where the waves meet the beach.
I wanted to capture this dilemma in my images. In each case, the subject is frozen; motionless in the frame. Each static body resonates with tension and potential. For these individuals, their bodies are either a means of escape or the very obstacle. Gazing at these bodies, we are forced to imagine the movements of which they are capable. The lives they wish to leave behind, and the ones that they dream of.
While this series focuses on a small community of Cubans, it subtly addresses a wider question of global mobility. It points towards a condition that is currently experienced by people across the planet. At this very moment, millions of migrants are performing feats of life-threatening athleticism to improve their existence. It seems that boxing rings, athletics tracks and baseball fields are spaces in which the movement is celebrated yet at the border crossings and beaches of the First World, it is not.