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I wanted to do one last great backpacking trip before settling down in the Big Apple, so in Spring 2008, I visited Cuba. Like most countries I travel to, I try not to have any preconceived notions of what to expect. What I found was a land and people far more familiar than I could have imagined. Cuba resonated with me like no other country I have traveled, and reminded me of what life was like being raised in Communist China. From the red handkerchiefs tied around the necks of students to the bicycles on the street, at almost every turn I experienced déjà vu. Scenes from my childhood came to life, lifted from memory and morphed into my surroundings, replaced with Spanish and colonial buildings. With this feeling of nostalgia, I began to capture settings that reminded me of the life that I once knew. While Cuba has its own cultural identity, many common threads linked me to my past. Larger themes such as the close-knit communities, the omnipresent government, sports, and the patient wait for change is something that both counties share. I went about photographing the people as if I had always lived there. Cuba gave me the opportunity to relive my youth as if I always had a camera around my neck.
Mark Gong is an award winning New York City-based freelance photographer. His passion for photography started when he took his first camera on a solo backpacking trip across Africa and Europe. Not long after, Mark landed the prestigious internship at The Washington Post and the Eddie Adams Workshop. His photographs have been published in The New York Times, The Washington Post, Fader, Surface and Popular Photography. Recently Mark won Best in Show at FotoWeek DC as well Surface’s Avant Guardian Project.