Tag Archives: self-publishing

Camaraderie in Cuba: Ernesto Bazan’s Self-Publishing Philosophy

For every boon that Ernesto Bazan has received, he can point to a parallel moment where he gave to someone else. “I strongly believe that in life, the more you give, the more you get back,” the Sicilian-born photographer said. “There’s no doubt that that’s the way it should be.”

This philosophy was something that Bazan saw again and again during his 14 years living in Cuba, especially in the five years he spent shooting rural life. He found that instead of the conflict-ridden urban place he often saw portrayed, the Cuba he lived in was one with a strong sense of community and charity. “There is a lot of daily life taking place on the streets,” he said. “Neighbors talk to one another if they need a favor, if they need some matches or garlic and the exchange of several things.” The Cubans Bazan encountered may not have had much, but what they did have, they shared. The camaraderie was so strong, so palpable, that Bazan was reminded of his own early, cozy childhood in Palermo. That spirit of reciprocity also crept into his work.

The dreamy, hazy images that fill the pages of Bazan’s latest book, called Al Campo, portray hard-working farmers, boisterous children and modest but colorful homes. The scenes reveal poverty, yes, but more noticeably they reveal resonating warmth. Farmers with wiry frames band together to work the land; small children dressed in little to no clothing lend one another a hand.

And more than just permeating the content of the pages, Bazan’s philosophy helped him actually publish the work. Both Al Campo and Bazan’s previous photography book, entitled Cuba, were self-published, a feat which would have been impossible without help from the photographer’s beloved students. While in Cuba, Bazan had spent several years teaching in-depth photography workshops, around 10 or 11 a year, and consequently became very close to many of his students. In 2006, calamity struck when the Cuban government cracked down on the photographer’s practice of teaching, and he was forced to leave the country. It was then that he realized, after giving so much to his students, that he would need help from them.

Courtesy of Ernesto Bazan

Ernesto Bazan editing at the computer during a workshop in Sicily last year.

He wrote to them, requesting help with the editing, production and funding that would be required to turn his photographs into two self-published works. Though he said he had no idea what kind of response he would receive, more than 50 of his students joined together, each contributing their talent and money, to help make the photographer’s dream a reality.

Bazan may have devoted his time and energy to educating his students—not to mention sacrificing his Cuban home because he refused to quit teaching—yet he feels that all his effort has come back full circle. “It was a great privilege for me because I think I’m the only one with this incredible student support,” he said. “Basically, I feel that, thanks to giving all of myself, I’ve been getting so much back.”

Ernesto Bazan is a Mexico-based photographer. Al Campo was published in 2011 and you can see more work here.

Megan Gibson is a Writer-Reporter at the London bureau of TIME. Find her on Twitter at @MeganJGibson

Camaraderie in Cuba: Ernesto Bazan’s Self-Publishing Philosophy

For every boon that Ernesto Bazan has received, he can point to a parallel moment where he gave to someone else. “I strongly believe that in life, the more you give, the more you get back,” the Sicilian-born photographer said. “There’s no doubt that that’s the way it should be.”

This philosophy was something that Bazan saw again and again during his 14 years living in Cuba, especially in the five years he spent shooting rural life. He found that instead of the conflict-ridden urban place he often saw portrayed, the Cuba he lived in was one with a strong sense of community and charity. “There is a lot of daily life taking place on the streets,” he said. “Neighbors talk to one another if they need a favor, if they need some matches or garlic and the exchange of several things.” The Cubans Bazan encountered may not have had much, but what they did have, they shared. The camaraderie was so strong, so palpable, that Bazan was reminded of his own early, cozy childhood in Palermo. That spirit of reciprocity also crept into his work.

The dreamy, hazy images that fill the pages of Bazan’s latest book, called Al Campo, portray hard-working farmers, boisterous children and modest but colorful homes. The scenes reveal poverty, yes, but more noticeably they reveal resonating warmth. Farmers with wiry frames band together to work the land; small children dressed in little to no clothing lend one another a hand.

And more than just permeating the content of the pages, Bazan’s philosophy helped him actually publish the work. Both Al Campo and Bazan’s previous photography book, entitled Cuba, were self-published, a feat which would have been impossible without help from the photographer’s beloved students. While in Cuba, Bazan had spent several years teaching in-depth photography workshops, around 10 or 11 a year, and consequently became very close to many of his students. In 2006, calamity struck when the Cuban government cracked down on the photographer’s practice of teaching, and he was forced to leave the country. It was then that he realized, after giving so much to his students, that he would need help from them.

Courtesy of Ernesto Bazan

Ernesto Bazan editing at the computer during a workshop in Sicily last year.

He wrote to them, requesting help with the editing, production and funding that would be required to turn his photographs into two self-published works. Though he said he had no idea what kind of response he would receive, more than 50 of his students joined together, each contributing their talent and money, to help make the photographer’s dream a reality.

Bazan may have devoted his time and energy to educating his students—not to mention sacrificing his Cuban home because he refused to quit teaching—yet he feels that all his effort has come back full circle. “It was a great privilege for me because I think I’m the only one with this incredible student support,” he said. “Basically, I feel that, thanks to giving all of myself, I’ve been getting so much back.”

Ernesto Bazan is a Mexico-based photographer. Al Campo was published in 2011.

Megan Gibson is a Writer-Reporter at the London bureau of TIME. Find her on Twitter at @MeganJGibson

Summer Songs of the Russian Riviera

In 2004, when photographer Rob Hornstra wanted to publish his first cohesive body of work in a book, he ran into a common problem—he couldn’t find a publisher who was willing to fund it. Hornstra’s solution was less than common: he decided to raise the initial funds himself by selling copies in advance via word of mouth and social networking. It took a month, but he succeeded. Hornstra decided to jump start the publication of his next two books the same way, with each volume of pre-orders selling out more quickly than the last. Hornstra is now on his sixth book (plus newspapers, postcards, prints and posters), and still relies primarily on his own crowdfunding efforts to fund them and their related projects. Crowdfunding and self-publishing are less rare these days, but that is thanks in part to pioneers like Hornstra whose distinctive eye and determination helped blaze the trail to get important work to receptive audiences without the backing of traditional journalistic and publishing outlets.

Hornstra’s latest book is on the restaurant singers of Russia’s favorite Black Sea resort town of Sochi. Any self-respecting restaurant on the coast has a live house singer to belt out sappy Russian chansons—take a vodka-soaked ballad and drop in a techno beat, all at full volume—from behind an electric keyboard or a laptop. Sochi is the center of the world, as far as this type of live entertainment is concerned, and Hornstra saw it as the perfect metaphor to depict the city and the region, traveling to more than 60 restaurants over 100 miles of coastline in 2011 to make the 37 photos for the book. The pictures mercifully strip away the noise of the music and cancel out the dark rooms and sharp flashing lights with Hornstra’s trademark, even lighting, allowing the viewer to patiently examine every telling detail of the interiors, including the faux Greek, French, Roman, Slavic and American décor.

Sochi Singers is in fact only the latest installment of The Sochi Project, Hornstra’s five-year commitment to exploring the region in the years leading up to the 2014 Winter Olympics Games, which Sochi will host exactly two years from this month. Partnering with writer and filmmaker Arnold van Bruggen, who wrote the essay in Sochi Singers, his goal is to paint a more complete picture of the area than the public is likely to see during those few short weeks in 2014. They have already traveled to a Soviet-era sanatorium outside of Sochi and the troubled region of Abkhazia and the Republic of Georgia, located only 13 miles along the coast to the southeast. Next month they plan to travel to the Caucasus mountains to the east, and the infamous breakaway republics of Dagestan, North Ossetia and Chechnya.

As Russia cycles into the news again next month when former president Vladimir Putin will likely be voted back into office, it is Hornstra’s commitment to “slow journalism” that allows audiences to put the headlines in context, as well as to see past the propaganda and pomp and circumstance that will inevitably surround the Winter Games. By examining the stark contrasts contained within the small region of the world, and recording both what changes—and what remains the same—Hornstra’s work reflects something deeper and more historic: Russia’s continuing search for a post-Soviet identity.

Rob Hornstra is a Dutch photographer. Learn more about the Sochi project hereThe Sochi Singers series recently won first place for the Arts and Entertainment—Stories category at the World Press Photo awards.