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Life perspective through photography

It is not a secret that I have a particular view of Miami. Often, when people ask me how is it living down here, I usually insert “it’s so plastic” somewhere. In contrast, while I lived in China, I started exploring film photography through candid street captures. I was far more excited and interested. But see, that was the problem.

Of course, I liked it! It was a new place, an entire culture completely new to me. So when I came back, I had lost interest in the whole exploration thing, though I did meet two of my favorite ladies I have ever photographed (Dayanna and Raquel). Between the dark veil of politics and racism plaguing the entire nation, I thought that people weren’t interesting, quite self-centered and acted a lot, sort of like a culture of posers. A good friend of mine said to me once “well, it really comes down to what you choose to look for in situations and people man”.

Recently, I decided to revisit that thought and went for a drive. Being the kind of guy who opens himself to change and being that I was really aching for new stories, I decided to challenge myself and clear this filter I had over my eyes. This is when I saw an old man, in the middle of a vacant lot, painting. As I got down the street, I told myself this has got to be something to look into.

I turned the car around, parked next to him, and as I approached the old painter who couldn’t care less for my apparent presence, I started feeling that nervous sensation and excitement I used to have when I was in China. I told him who I was and what I did, and I asked to photograph him. Initially, he did not agree per se, but our conversation steered away from photography and delved into an hour and a half of stories about many thought to be banal areas of Wynwood.

I put my camera down and sat on the floor. For that entire hour, I just sat and listened to quite hilarious stories ranging from drunken nights with prostitutes, the art world of Miami and the really really strange back alley deals between the rich and wannabe artists, a story about a piece of wall from a construction site that was destined to be trashed and got sold for an undisclosed amount of money, and how he despises Picasso yet paints like him

It was rather epic how much we had in common. For example, we were born 3 days apart, and we really didn’t understand why some of Basquiat’s work was worth this much. After a small moment of silence, he asked: “so, how do you want to do this?” I replied to keep talking and that I’d do the rest.

portrait photography of man painting in vacant parking lot
portrait photography of man painting in vacant parking lot
portrait photography of man painting in vacant parking lot
portrait photography of man painting in vacant parking lot

The man was Carlos A. Cortada, a fine art painter from Cuba with an unsuspecting pedigree. He touched quite a bit of building walls in Miami, which “others” have claimed rights to.  Apparently, he also used to photograph as a hobby. Before parting, he dedicated one of his paintings that I had purchased and said: ” you are a great man, you just don’t know it yet..”

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