Kevin Slack has been visiting his favorite exile, Cuba, since 2000, documenting the country and especially the men, while building an extensive portfolio. While that country is tilted on the edge of change, Kevin continues to return, trying to uncover the restless and vital spirit of Cuba and Cuban men. While he focuses mainly on Havana, Kevin has traveled the island from Pinar del Rio to Holguin. Kevin hopes to figure out a plan for living and working in Cuba that involves taking his dog with him.
“My models are not otherwise models. I find them on the street or meet them through friends of friends. A quick audition might happen on the street or in my rented apartment or at a party. Are my models, my men, Cuba’s men? Do they represent Cuba? They do, most sincerely, for me. The men of Cuba, so many of them, are blazingly beautiful. They have a resolved fierceness of spirit and an unfettered sexuality that reveals itself in their bodies and I hope in the photographs.”
"So much of what I do in Cuba is controlled risk. Will the models show up on time? Will I get the chemistry out of the models? Will it rain? Will the space be available? Will we be caught? I work with an illusion of impunity, perhaps, because I have to in order to produce what I produce. But I also try to control the risks I take. Often I will have multiple plans on a single day — exactly because things so often go wrong, or at least sideways."
"Cuba is a miracle out of time and Havana is a beautiful disaster, a city in the clouds, that really ought not to exist, but there it is. For now. I understand that it is a stunning, evocative, and vivid aesthetic; and I understand that so much of Havana is hard for the people and for my friends,who live there. The light and the colors and the ruins and the labyrinthine streets and the phantoms of history are part of what inspires me. It’s hard not to be inspired."
"Perhaps my favorite place in the world to be, Los Jardines de la Polar, my secret garden in Havana. It is abandoned and very nearly undocumented. When I take my models there, boys who live a few minutes away, they marvel at the beauty and the space. The Polar Gardens, named after the nearby Polar beer factory, the Polar Cerveceria, is secreted away inside the city, under a large canopy of ancient algarrobo trees with their knotting threading vine-roots casting dapple-drawn light on the gardens and gazebos and bridges, on the miniature castles and Chinese tile work, on the shining mustard and deep blue tiles ascatter in the earth, on Catalan Modernist structures, now crumbling under the force of time and a death grip of vines."
"Sex and sexuality in Cuba in particular is a natural force, divinely fluid and almost incidental too, that bears no apology. It’s my experience that my Cuban friends don’t want or need the labels or the categories. And I find that fascinating and enviable, even. We are too quick, I think, to want to name our desires. How liberating it must be to be free of the labels. And just to live and just to love and just to be. Without the labels, without the names, nothing in particular is perverse."
"When I rose up out of the tunnel leading into the heart of Havana, into the crumbling architecture, I knew instantly I was in love. But that was mostly an entirely aesthetic response. Havana is otherworldly: the architecture, the ruins, the feeling of far-stretching time, the presence of ghosts and history everywhere — it really ought to be impossible, but there it is. Like a castle in the clouds."
"I love the joy of life I see everywhere. I try to tell my Cuban friends that in Canada, it’s cold and gray and we hide in our houses and we don’t know our neighbors and we work and we work and we talk about celebrities and mortgages. But in Cuba, there is theater everywhere. There are people everywhere. There is joy and beauty everywhere. And at least as far as I can see, they know how to live, they know how to love, they dance and drink and smoke and fuck and celebrate life. But it was the second time in Cuba — this time we went directly to Havana — that stirred up my love and my obsession too with working in Cuba. My favorite exile? Cuba is almost out of synch with the rest of the world. I don’t mean to say that it’s backwards or wrong. It is, or at least it has been, almost removed from a global consciousness. There is no other otherwhere that I have experienced that is, or at least was, as otherwhere as Cuba."
Kevin Slack likes a challenge. Setting up, organizing, and completing a shoot on the beaches of Cuba may sound fun, but it's hard work (and yeah, someone has to do it.) Obviously there are perks. Thanks to Kevin Slack Photography for letting us use some stills from his shoot for Ca-Rio-Ca Swimwear, made in Brazil. See more of Kevin's work here, including his membership site, which contains many images with far less clothing than you see here. And Cuba. Don't forget the amazing pictures of Cuba.