Deep inside the soul of Cuba are the campesinos—the men and women who have always worked the countryside across the length and breadth of Cuba, away from cities, towns, and often villages. Resilient, resourceful, and proud, campesinos are the heart and soul of Cuba. The fruit of years of travel among Cuba’s less-known and little-explored rural communities, Campesinos: Inside the Soul of Cuba is a collection of loving and intimate photographs by world-renowned photographers Chip Cooper and Julio Larramendi documenting people and places from every corner of the island nation, many never seen by Cubans themselves let alone visitors from abroad.
Into the center of this world traveled two photographers to document these extraordinary people. One, Julio Larramendi, was born in Cuba and has spent his whole life there. The other, Chip Cooper, came to visit for the first time from his native Alabama more than a decade ago. Together, Cooper and Larramendi have captured the light, sounds, and spirit of the campesino landscape and the humble and determined people who inhabit it, ways of living that have not changed, in many instances, for a century or more. From green tobacco fields and winding roads to the faces, both stern and smiling, of children and their close-knit families, Cooper and Larramendi have captured in this landmark volume the rhythms and traditions of contemporary rural Cuban life in ways never before documented.
“I am not just staring at a photograph in a book. I am there in the countryside of Cuba. It is a surreal experience. This is the power and the grandeur of great photography—that I feel I am looking out of the window of a bus or car and that I AM THERE. It takes special photographers to achieve this. Chip Cooper and Julio Larramendi have done just this, and I am happy to have been able to travel there with them through their moving images.”
—Robert Stevens, from the Introduction
“Julio Larramendi and Chip Cooper do not place any claims on our state. Their interest is to give them an idea of our real life. In its esteem, they have painted its portrait. And we, these peasants, in our past and present reality, summon the ghosts of our grandparents.”
—Reynaldo Gonzalez, from the Preface
Chip Cooper is a current artist in residence from the Fototeca de Cuba for the City of Havana and artist in residence in the Honors College at the University of Alabama. He is the author, coauthor, and/or photographer of several photography books, including Hunting: The Southern Tradition, Alabama Memories, Silent in the Land, Common Threads: Photographs and Stories from the South, Crimson: The University of Alabama,Tin Man: Charlie Lucas, and Old Havana: Spirit of the Living City/La Habana Vieja: El espíritu de la ciudad viva. A past recipient of an artist fellowship from the Alabama State Council on the Arts, Cooper’s work has been recognized both nationally and internationally and is held in many museums and in private and corporate collections.
Julio Larramendi is a research associate for the National Museum of Natural History of Cuba, a professor and visiting artist in residence at the University of Alabama’s Honors College, and the editorial director of Ediciones Polymita. He was the founder and first president of the department of Latin American photography at the José Martí International Institute of Journalism. His work has been featured in more than fifty books. Larramendi has had more than one hundred solo exhibitions and sixty group exhibits across thirty countries and various Cuban cities, and he is the recipient of more than a dozen international awards.