Havana may be one of the poorest cities in the world but Michael Heffernans lyrical street-life photographs argue that in terms of its human resources the Cuban capital is rich. British photographer Heffernan made his name as a photojournalist with a book on Londons homeless, produced to raise money for the charity Shelter, and the same empathic eye has dicovered layers of Cuban society which the tourist images of classic cars and cigar vendors have neglected.
Heffernans lens zooms past Ché and Castro to focus on a game of draughts played on an ancient board, a group of boys hanging out by the waterside or a small boy wearing giant boxing gloves. Given the anticipated change in Cuban culture when Castro dies, Heffernans documentation of the daily rhythms and mores of the habaneros forms a valuable record of a threatened way of life.
As Havana becomes an increasingly fashionable global tourist destination and films like the acclaimed documentary The Buena Vista Social Club popularise the music of Cuba, Heffernans vivacious celebration of the social textures couldnt be more timely. For combining a sense of place with modulated compassion, Heffernan is in a league of his own.