Patria O Muerte @ Such and Such
Patria O Muerte (Homeland or Death). The subtitle, A Photographic Exhibition of Cuba, explains the seemingly simple premise behind this solo exhibition by Dundee photographer Ross Fraser McLean. In 2009 McLean journeyed to Cuba during the country’s 50th anniversary of the revolution equipped with a variety of cameras (including an antique large format studio camera) and set about taking photos documenting the country, and its daily life.
The immaculate images he ended up with (hundreds of them) reveal snapshots of a world of contradictions, images somewhat in the spirit of William Eggleston that don’t seek to define a nation or a people, rather to capture the subtleties of the mundanity and the sparks of brilliance that make up daily life anywhere and everywhere. The Cuba that comes out is surprisingly still, sun bleached, surrounded by blue seas and skies and covered in dust and frayed electrical wires. It’s dotted with old American cars (a common image in this collection – says McLean, “My dad’s really into cars, I guess it’s a way of connecting with him.”), pro-state graffiti, and palm trees, rotting colonial palaces and ramshackle music halls from another era.
What emerges from the collection should resonate with anyone who has ever travelled to a country and felt the need to make their photos live up to an image they already have in their minds. Imagine Havana and you will surely conjure up images of cigars, Mojitos, Che Guevara, dusty colonial streets. McLean has gone in with an open mind, observed, and caught something different, the moments that happen outwith that predefined frame. For this show he’s displaying them in non-linear fashion, leaving interpretation open for the viewer to explore. There are lots of different ideas here, ideas that lead to more ideas, the exhibition providing many more questions than it has answers. [Rosamund West]