So, this day, two news items of equal import from my friend and friend-o'-TOP Peter Turnley, who visited me here in Upstate New York last week.
First, today is publication day for Peter's newest book, Cuba: A Grace of Spirit.
Peter's first self-published book (although he had many books published commercially prior to it, both with his twin brother David and alone) was French Kiss: A Love Letter to Paris, and TOP readers were instrumental in its considerable success. (It sold out its first press run, which was large for a photobook, and is now in a second printing.) Cuba: A Grace of Spirit is similar in a lot of ways: it's a premium production with a deluxe hardcover binding, fine reproductions, and a beautifully made slipcase. Every copy will be signed by the photographer and the book will not be available in bookstores.
More about the book in a moment.
The second item of news is something I find quite amazing: Peter is going to be the very first American artist of any kind since the Cuban Revolution to receive a major show at Cuba's most prestigious art museum, the Museo Nacional de Bellas Artes de La Habana (the National Museum of Fine Arts of Havana). It will be a comprehensive career retrospective of his work.
This is undoubtedly a high point of Peter's ongoing career as well as a significant moment in the new epoch of Cuba's relationship with the United States and the world. I find it extremely impressive, and also, somehow, curiously encouraging...real "from life" photography getting some serious, respectful, celebratory attention on a major stage. The show, which is called "Momentos de la Condicion Humana" (Moments of the Human Condition) will run from November 13 through February 15th.
The curators at the Museo Nacional could not have made a better choice, in any event. Peter Turnley loves Cuba. He first went to Cuba to photograph Mikhail Gorbachev and Fidel Castro in 1989, and the new book is the culmination of half a lifetime of constant travel to the island. As some TOP readers know firsthand, he teaches workshops there. More recently, he became convinced that Cuba was approaching a turning point in its history and he intensified his travel schedule—he estimates he's been there, for different reasons but always to photograph, 20 times in the past four years.
My first reaction to the book was that it's the first time I've seen such a forthright portrait purely of the Cuban people. Cuba is picturesque, and so many photographers treat it like a "photo opportunity," mining the low-hanging fruit of its bright colors and signs of poverty and the obsolete '50s American cars for their quaint picturesque qualities in ways we've all seen before. Of course those elements are present (if subdued) in the new book. But what Peter calls "the vibrant, joyful, resilient, courageous, beautiful, and elegant spirit of the Cuban people" is what he loves best and respects most, and that's what you'll find front and center. It's really the subject of the book. (He also notes that this spirit "transcends politics and change," and signifiers of both take a back seat.)
I also think the book shows some interesting things about Peter's growth as an artist, but I'll leave those thoughts to another time.
Last time, French Kiss was planned from the first to sell at a regular price of $85 (perfectly reasonable for a self-published book in a sturdy slipcase—self-publishing is more expensive than commercial publishing), and $69 was supposed to be a temporary, introductory price; but copies sold so fast Peter simply never raised the price. After the first printing sold out, he invested in a second printing, and there are still some of those left—still offered at that introductory price of $69.
So, the introductory price of Cuba: A Grace of Spirit is $69. And may stay there. Or might not. The edition is 3,000.
You can see some of the page spreads at the sale page, plus a video.
Oh, and if you missed French Kiss: A Love Letter to Paris, Peter is offering both books for a special price. (Saves on shipping and handling if people buy both at once.) Scroll down on the sale page for that. (Even if you already have a copy of French Kiss, you know what a great gift book it could be...for anyone you love, or for anyone you know who loves France.)
Every copy of both books will be signed.
And, any sales that come from here benefit TOP as well.
Congratulations to Peter, on both counts, and I look forward to hearing what people think of the new book. I'll present a "mini-portfolio" of my favorite pictures from the book sometime in the next few weeks. I might actually go to Havana for the show. When else am I ever going to get to Cuba?
Here's the link to the book again.
(Thanks to Peter)
Original contents copyright 2015 by Michael C. Johnston and/or the bylined author. All Rights Reserved. Links in this post may be to our affiliates; sales through affiliate links may benefit this site.
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