June 5, 2010
Havana, Cuba
Elevation: 0km
Humidity: Soaking
We had agreed on three different projects to tackle while I am down here. Each day, we go out and create a little bit more content for each of the three projects. This morning we went to the market for me (excellent shooting) and then onward to our collaborative efforts.
My friend wanted us to go to the arrival terminal for flights in from Miami. He has been painting a series of people in tight embrace as their family returns. The terminal for the flights from Miami is a different terminal than the one I arrived at. The visitors cannot go inside. Everyone has to wait outside in the sun. We were both surprised to find that there is a flight arriving nearly every hour on the hour.
We wait and watch the nervous excitement of the families waiting outside. He tells me that we should be ok shooting as long as we don’t photograph a policemen. Sure. That makes sense to me. Nearly two hours after our initial arrival (meanwhile I am working on a nasty sun burn), people are finally starting to come out and we are starting to get into some kind of grove when a policeman starts to question my friend. He gestures for me to go over to him as I am on the opposite side of the waiting crowd. The police wants to see my papers so I hand over a photocopy of my ROC passport.
We are asked to follow. The tiny 8X10 metal shack that is the station at the end of the road is locked so he must call for another police to come and unlock it. I have a feeling that being questioned by the police is not something new for my friend. We go inside. Ah! Its air conditioned! Is it wrong to actually enjoy this a little? I take a seat and act as if I have just been invited into the VIP lounge and not a police station. Being nervous will not help me here.
Three other officers and what not comes in and the most official one starts talking to us. I get the jest of what is being asked. Why are we here, what are we doing, etc etc. Did we know that we are not allowed to take photos in all of the perimeters around the airport. My friend explains that he is an artist and he makes painting about family reuniting. He defends himself with the fact that there are no posted signs anywhere. Questions and more questions.
I always hate it when they hold on to your identification while they are talking to you. It is as if they want to memorize it. It is as if they stare at it long enough your ID will all of sudden become a fake and your spy cover will be blown.
I ask the officer if it is just a matter of us deleting the pictures on our cameras and everything will be ok. I don’t think he took much notice of my film cameras and I could careless about the few random shots that is on the G9. My friend talks to the officer some more. He apparently told the officers that he is very well connected and suggests the officer make some calls.
We seems to be near the end of this interrogation. The officer is still looking at our papers and my friend is telling him that I am a professional photographer and not a spy. Oh lord. In situation like this I am never sure if its a good thing or a bad thing that I am a photographer. Good disguise or a really bad one? As the officer looks down at the photocopy of my passport again, I tell him that its not a very good photo of me. Everyone in the room laughs. Ok, I think we might get out of here alive! Finally the officer gives us back our ID and shakes my friends hand.
Outside, my friend says that he can’t believe he translated the comment about my photo for me. Hey, I am just trying to get the guy to laugh so that we can all get out of here.

Charlie Grosso
www.charliegrosso.com
310-592-0895

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