London-based photographer Joshua Osborne has been aware of Cuba’s cultural iconography for a long time – the dancing, the music, and the cigars – but it was other aspects of the island that fascinated him. “It was their boxing reputation that initially grabbed me. With barely any resources, they still remain the best in the world and I was intrigued by that,” he says. With this, Osborne set off to Havana with his camera, 20 rolls of film and a focus on documentary style and street casting. The result is his debut book HABANABOY, an intimate look at the diverse male characters of Havana: boxers, drag queens, skaters, workers, and hustlers. Designed by Joe Joiner, it is introduced with a foreword from Dazed’s Arts & Culture editor, Ashleigh Kane, and will launch at Protein Studios this Friday 1 September.
“I’ve always been interested in the different aspects and perceptions of masculinity and how that is changing in modern times” – Joshua Osborne
“After making good friends with two local boys, they began to introduce me to different subcultures of Havana,” Osborne explains. “Although my time was limited I tried to capture as many as possible, and the project continued developing the longer I stayed. It all happened very naturally.” Despite the focus being on subcultures, and not gender, Osborne reveals he was drawn to photographing males “I've always been interested in the different aspects and perceptions of masculinity and how that is changing in modern times – without really knowing why.” But HABANABOY does include one female, who Osborne initially mistook for a young boy. “I approached her under the assumption she was a young boy. It turned out she was in fact in her early thirties and was homeless. We walked and talked for an hour and I came to find out she'd had a very troubled life. We got a beer, I took a few portraits and we went our separate ways.”
While the notion of subcultures is a vein through the book, individual personality is what truly shines through in each portraits – a refreshing alternative depiction of Cuba from the scenic shots we are used to seeing. Gathered together as diptychs in a bound and colorful book punctuated with graphic typography and quotes from the subjects, Osborne’s imagery portrays the bright energy and diversity of a younger generation.
“There may be no money or food on the table but it wouldn't break a person – music, dance and community spirit were everywhere and it was so beautiful to witness,” he says. “In western culture, we are extremely spoilt, and although we seem to have ‘everything’ in comparison to other countries, we still lack that human nature and warmth and that’s the main thing about Cuba that I'll always treasure.”
HABANABOY launches this Friday 1 September at London’s Protein Studios. Click here to RSVP