Spanish photo enthusiast creates picture book of Cuba's classic cars

Posted: 19-Jan-16 17:03

Two years ago car photographer Piotr Degler embarked on a mission to find the most interesting of Cuba's classic cars and take pictures of them. The result is an amazing collection of images contained in a newly published 300-page coffee-table book. Each of the pictures tells its own tale and Piotr says he enjoyed his time in Cuba as much as he did capturing the cars.

Spanish photo enthusiast creates picture book of Cuba's classic cars

One of the key defining features of Cuba, at least in the eyes of visitors, is the abundance of old model cars on its streets, in parking lots and garages. This inspired one photographer from Spain to spend a month on the island in 2014 to take pictures of these automotive relics.

In the course of his mission, Piotr Degler took more than 25,000 pictures of cars of all makes and models being driven through the streets, peeling and overgrown with weeds, even rotting under trees. And it wasn’t just the quest and discovery of cars that captured Degler, as he recalled:

"I have to say, every day in Cuba was memorable and different. You never knew what could be next."

The 30 year-old’s images are more than just well-composed pictures of classic cars; they tell the story of a country’s unique history. In 1959, as part of the embargo on Cuba, the US stopped the exportation of cars and other products into the island. This is the reason that many of the cars roaming the streets in Havana, Trinidad, Cienfuegos and other cities are throwbacks from the 50s.

"For every car enthusiast, travelling to Cuba is travelling in time."

More importantly, Degler’s pictures are an artistic memoir of Cuba that you can refer to after the winds of change inevitably sweep through the Caribbean island.

"A Cuban driver will tell you he would love to change his vintage Chevy for a more modern Soviet car from the 70s and even more for a small Hyundai. They are more reliable and much more comfortable. They even have air conditioning.

"For sure I would love every Cuban to be able to afford a new reliable car, the only thing I am saying as a photographer and classic car enthusiast is that the car 'scenario' will never be the same. This is why I decided to make this book now."

Luckily, 200 of Degler’s best photos are now being compiled into a book titled "Carros de Cuba" (Cars of Cuba) with an exquisite selection handpicked by Piotr himself. There is also a calendar that has already been published featuring some of those memorable images.

Of all the photos Piotr took, one of a shell of a Mercedes 300SL rusting under a banana tree is the apple of the photographer’s eye. It is the quest for this million-dollar vehicle that inspired Degler’s mission to a large extent.

"Looking at old photos on the Internet, I knew there was at least one 300SL on the island, but didn't know anything about it - even Cubans didn’t know anything about that car."

He was just about to pack it in when he finally discovered the prized monument, nestled in wild vegetation. There is something magnetic about the neglected gem sitting in dim lighting surrounded by junk and fruit trees.

Other noteworthy images in Degler’s collection are those of a Porsche 356 in a garage and a majestic Hispano Suiza in a barn. Piotr’s book offers a unique insight into Cuba and is a valuable memoir for car enthusiasts as well.

Note: All images © Piotr Degler and Degler Studio.


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