A new life in Havana for a baby boomer

Figueredo Véliz is a baby boomer from Germany who moved to Cuba to take up his passion for photography. He has achieved considerable fame as one of Leica’s top photographers. His crusade is to capture images of the Cuban people and old Havana before it all changes. He tells his story for BoomerCafé.

It all started as one man’s quest. My quest. I’d been divorced a second and probably last time.

Figueredo Véliz at home in Havana with his Leica camera, a drink and a cigar.

Figueredo Véliz at home in Havana with his Leica camera, a drink and a cigar.

In my first life I was married almost thirty years, had a wonderful family, and worked almost all that time period in my life for IBM.

Now something new was on the horizon. I just didn’t know yet what it was.

As an interlude between “still being young“ and “getting old soon,“ I picked up a very young female hitchhiker about nine years ago when I was traveling alone through Cuba.

In fact she was not so young, she was 21 and I was 53. She was on her way to the university in Santiago de Cuba.

For both of us, an advantageous combination. Although I knew that it would not be forever, I married her only three months after giving her that ride. It was a good deal for both of us and we had a wonderful time together. I gave her the freedom to escape from a dictatorship country and she donated me her youth.

As I anticipated, the honeymoon was over after the famous seventh year, and we got divorced before it would get painful for at least one of us.

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Capturing the soul of Havana … a photo by Figueredo.

Still though, my brother told me I should look for a wife yet again as I am a man who does not feel complete without a woman. Not so easy today, when I am at the beginning of my sixties.

Internet dating? Forget it — You get a rejection even before you have asked a question.

Havana is a city for photographers.

Havana is a city for photographers.

“Go where the market is,“ I said to myself. Where I can give something to a woman because women don’t already have all they need.

I bought a ticket to Havana two years ago and left Germany for an indefinite time. Why Cuba? The answer is simple: I knew Cuba already from my past partnership. A safe country, always summer, nice and friendly people, the exciting city of Havana, lots of possibilities to follow my passion: photography.

I strolled through Havana every single day, took many photos, enjoyed life, and started to learn Spanish. The more I could speak the local tongue, the closer I came to the native Cubans.

After I posted some of my photos on Facebook in August of 2014, life in Havana started to become a little different as people approached me in the streets and asked, “Are you Figueredo?”

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Man washing. Photo by Figueredo.

Maybe they like my work because they think I get closer to the hearts and souls of the Cuban people than any other photographer.

A friend once said to me, “I thought a lot about why your photos are so special and I think I know the secret: Cuban people like to flirt, get approached, and get photographed.”

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But there’s another secret he did not mention. A rangefinder camera with a wide angle lens forces you to bridge the distance to the protagonists: you have to get close and dive into the crowd to get vivid photos.

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Getting rid of my “digital monster“ five years ago — a Nikon D700 with three big zoom lenses — and reducing to the max by buying a Leica M9-P with a single 35mm lens was the key to see the world differently and concentrate on the essential. It brought the passion back.

 

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12 Comments

  1. Hallo Volker,
    interessante späte Lebensgeschichte mit ausdrucksstarken Bildern.
    Irgendwann besuche ich Dich, falls Du dann noch auf Cuba bist. Mich interessiert das Cuba von heute, nicht so sehr in 10 Jahren.
    Herzliche Grüße
    Klaus-Georg

  2. We met in Havana last Novemeber when I was sharing your passion for photography in that wonderful city. Great to know you are still capturing the beauty of the people and their environment.
    Best wishes.

  3. Thank you for sharing your amazing photos. I got lost in their beauty. Take care and bask in the warm culture of the Cuban people.

    with warm regards

  4. Hi there.
    Really like Your Pictures. Thats the Pictures I like. And hopefully in B/W.
    Have a good time / Lars

  5. I love your photos! Thank you for sharing them. Do you other types of tours of Havana? Or can you recommend someone who does. Thanks, Kathy

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