Gustavo Jononovich – Yuma

Gustavo Jononovich


I traveled to Cuba because my girlfriend decided to do an internship in a hospital in La Havana, she’s a Doctor. Until then, I had always made photographs guided by a specific theme, trying to tell something about other people’s misfortunes. I decided to experience photography in a different way this time. I wasn’t interested in telling or describing anything about the well-known political and historical characteristics of the Cuban system. I didn’t want to need to look for ‘useful situations’. I tried to forget that I was there.

Liberating myself of having to tell something about Cuba allowed me to connect in a more authentic way with the place. Photographing using only my instinct allowed me to discover what I was feeling. My method was to walk the same streets over and over again, in silence, just focusing in contemplating. I sometimes felt attracted to the expression of the shapes and textures and to the simple beauty of nature. Other times I felt I was just photographing my own sense of calmness or the mystery that Cuba inspired me. Yuma is the way Cubans call foreigners, I was the Yuma.




Gustavo Jononovich was born in Buenos Aires in 1979. In 2008 he began as a freelance photographer, after two years of training covering local news as a contract photographer for an Argentine based newspaper.

His first long-term book project RICHLAND, currently in progress, is about the over-exploitation of the natural resources in Latin America and the resulting long-term negative effects, both human and environmental. His approach to photography led him far away from covering breaking news, being more interested in providing an in-depth analysis on the stories.
His work has been published in Newsweek Japan, PDFX12, the Black Snapper, Global Post, Bite! and Lunatic Magazine, among others.

– POYi Latin America 2011 – Migration and Human Trafficking Stories – 2nd prize
– ICP Infinity Award in Photojournalism 2010 – Nominee
– Encuentro Internacional de Foto y Periodismo ‘Ciudad de Gij’n’ 2010 – Finalist
– Environmental Photographer of The Year 2009 – Climate Change – 2nd prize


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Gustavo Jononovich


30 Responses to “Gustavo Jononovich – Yuma”

  • This reminded me of my visit back in the spring. It shows the mystery that is Cuba. Well done.

  • When I read, it is about Cuba, I was not really eager to look at as I thought that Cuba-pics always moreorless look very similar. But what a nice surprise! I liked the essay a lot!

  • I loved the first shot, and the last shot brought a smile, that dog and the water. The whole essay left me tired at moments, like art does, but it was a journey worth taking. Well done.

  • The work of Trent Parke instantly springs to mind when looking at this, which is certainly no bad thing. There are some really, really beautiful images here. Very interesting to see this take on a place…black and white, super high contrast…as so much of what has come before seeks out the colours that seem to define Cuba. The statement made me think how it’s funny that we so often feel like we’re not “allowed” to just photograph a place, that we always have to be chasing and telling a story. Sometimes the study of a place itself can be as telling as any specific narrative set within it. Congrats.

  • What a great style :) I really enjoy this series, with the blacks and highlights. It’s simple, straightforward, and really effective.. nice work!

  • I really like this essay, Gustavo; congratulations on being published here. My first thought of Cuba is colour: probably from owning DAH’s book Cuba but you have produced a thoghtful, lyrical b&w essay. Bravo!

    Colin, “The statement made me think how it’s funny that we so often feel like we’re not “allowed” to just photograph a place, that we always have to be chasing and telling a story. Sometimes the study of a place itself can be as telling as any specific narrative set within it.” – I wrote almost the same words in my journal a few days ago! So true.


  • Bravo! A set of single images nicely arranged together revealing a lot more about the photographer than Cuba and that is fine with me. I could hang any of these wonderful images on my lounge walls, in fact I wish they were all were my own personal work! I always see the world as singles, I’m incapable of weaving a story through my work and so it’s comforting seeing someone else managing it with success.
    I’m sure many round here will find fault in the fact that these images could be really of any South American country but I’m just happy spinning round in circles feasting on this visual kick.

  • @ GUSTAVO:
    Felicitaciones por las imagenes y la publicacion aca, en burn!
    Otro argentino mas en esta comunidad, junto a Alejandro C., Irina, Walter Astrada, vos, tengo que trabajar duro para ser el proximo…


  • meant gorgeous, of course

  • Fantastic play of light and compositions. Sometimes who really needs more?

  • CUBA con AMOR!!!!!
    simply lovely..
    patterns in nature..
    spiral stairs and wires and a 2’x4’…
    wishing for a mojito
    en la habana….
    con la luna…..
    i sort of wish these were shot on film for some reason… I don’t know why, as they are great images regardless….. perhaps its my longing for a darkroom to print these…. deee lish….. :)

  • These are beautiful… very moving, mysterious, and expressive. I’m especially taken with number 13. I love work like this… doesn’t follow a script as much as your own emotional and intuitive exploration of a place. Having never traveled to Cuba, I feel this photo essay reveals more about it than just about any other series of pictures I’ve ever seen from there. Very well done.

  • (Please note that the comments below are based on viewing this essay on Gustavo’s website. For some reason, I’m unable to view the images directly on this site.)

    Viewing this essay gives me enormous satisfaction, a real “kick to the eyeballs” as Paul says. The panoramic of the birds is just so beautifully composed.

    I have to question the shot of the tree though; why would it be done in such bright sunlight using a slow shutter speed? It is this sort of thing where the desire for the supremacy of style-through-technique trumps practical technical considerations that generally grates on my nerves. The image of the howling dog also bothers me because of the tilt of the camera. My understanding of the Winogrand Tilt is that there should always be a line of interest parallel to one of the framelines. Look at the magnificent shot of the people in silhouette by the cabanas (?), where there is perspective-induced tilt; having that beautifully delicate vertical on the left anchoring everything in a tense space makes the shot complete for me. But with the howling dog none of this is happening. It is uncertain whether flash is involved here, or if there is just a natural reflection lighting the animal. If it is the former, then more thought should have been put into the composition; if the latter, then it is completely acceptable.

    As I said, this essay is simply excellent for the most part, and I’m niggardly focussing on some issues to address a point that has been made above. We often see essays on subject matter that has been done before, to the extent that boredom sometimes sets in. I’ve been taught that on essays involving a big or important story, great images are not always necessary (though of course, always preferred), and that on less important stories – like, another essay on Cuba – great images are paramount. This is why I think Gustavo’s work works for us; it is driven by the aesthetic.

  • The Winogrand Tilt? Never heard of that one, Jeff. For me, the intro explains Gustavo’s approach here; just wandering around and making photographs – with the emphasis on making – no agenda, no theme, just making great photographs. Enough for me.


  • Those of you who haven’t wondered round Gustavo’s website should take a look, as it’s just as impressive as the work presented here on Burn.

  • It’s kind of interesting that the author combines photography and tourism on a journey of self-discovery in place of focusing on the misfortunes of others. Strange what kind of space someone must come from for those kind of things to be revelations. Bravo, nevertheless. The quality of the result overcomes the poverty of the premise.

    Of course there’s nothing wrong with a non-narrative approach, though I’m not sure that has entirely been achieved here. This obviously adds up to more than 21 singles. The photos hold together as a story, though what the story might be isn’t clear. As most of you know, I’m fine with that kind of language-less story, find it preferable actually. But one of the good things about narrative structure is that weaker photos can serve it well. Whereas without that structure, weaker pictures are just that. Weaker pictures. By my count you’ve got 15 or so strong ones. That’s pretty good. Very good, actually. And I really like the experiments with multiple exposures.

  • Worth the journey to that last, lovely photograph.

  • A welcome respite from the usual photographer’s statement who claims to be out to save the world.

  • I think this is the first essay on Cuba that, if I had not been informed was on Cuba, I would have had absolutely no idea was shot in Cuba.

    Cuba, anywhere, lower latitudes, planet earth.

    Excellent pictures throughout.

  • I like this series a lot. But I am struggling with the high contrast. High contrast is a pretty blunt insturment. I can’t help wondering what many of these images would look like with a full tonal range, or even in colour.

  • Completely blown away, love it. & I love the thought process. I think almost by avoiding going after something specific you end up telling what Cuba is like in a more palpable way.

    There are a few types of images and I think the high contrast helps keep it cohesive. It’s an interesting mix with some very loose, some highly detailed stills. Somehow it works, I think normally would be very hard to put those together so well. The only one I question is #6. I wouldn’t remove it, but I kept moving it around trying to see if it would work better in another spot. Just a thought.


  • mike r – what is they say about great minds again?…;-P

  • I am reminded of “Capitolio” by Christopher Anderson looking at this essay.
    Also…I share frostfrog’s observation….this could be anywhere….the most obvious hint (to me) is the farmer and the ox’s ploughing the field. But that is not exclusively a cuban thing of course :)
    I really enjoyed this essay…great work.

  • I can’t help wondering what many of these images would look like with a full tonal range, or even in colour.

    probably like the pictures he did not want to have by the end of his trip, no?

    Agreeing with Charles peterson, a superb essay for BURN, and a lesson in photography not being exactly about photos.

  • Similar to nana ziesche when I first read Cuba I had a kind of rejection, already seen so many photos of old cars, colored walls, old people I have seen, many very similar even if from different photographers: But if it is on Burn there must be something special and I decided to give a look. What a revelation! Free wheel photography not to illustrate but to share the emotions. I like the idea, I like the execution. It s like a modern visual poetry, bravo Gustavo!

  • Free wheel photography not to illustrate but to share the emotions……… what most of the population and it ain’t no revelation.

  • What a beautiful island! And I love the hyper-narrative of each and every image. I can go where I want to with them and don’t feel constrained by the perceived intention of the photographer. Hasta la victoria siempre!

  • This is a look at Cuba that defies the folkish color and the usual cliche shots. Calm, contempaltive and introspective as if Cuba was opening it’s secret heart to you. Tha way you perceived the place reminds me of one of my favorite, undeservingly unknown, photographer’s take on the place,Jean Pierre Favreau

  • This is my first time commenting on one of Burn’s heartfelt essays. Gustavo’s series of beautiful strong black and white poetic images struck me in a positive way that I had to comment.
    As mentioned by another poster, these could have been inspired from any other South American country. It really didn’t matter where the bus stopped, we all need to be inspired and fortunately Gustavo happened to be in Cuba to create a memorable body of work. A couple of Gustavo’s images did shout out to me and gave me some pleasant flash backs of my time in Cuba, as I have been traveling there for many years as a “visitor” with eyes and heart wide open.
    To get to Cuba’s heart and gut it is necessary to experience this journey layer by layer revealing sometimes more than we expected. This can be done without all the clichés of a colorful country of poverty and a not so popular political history; however it takes passion and time to separate one from creating and repeating those clichés. DAH’s Cuban Soul is a successful example. I also discovered his daily input from THE RIO BOOK explains this passionate process in a far better way than I am trying to do.
    As an aside or to expand on Gustavo’s experience as a “Yuma” In its literal slang this means foreigner. A foreigner in Cuba is also most often referred to as an Extranjero, usually one from a non-Spanish speaking country. In Cuba “Yuma” is also an allusion. There is a generation of Cubans that grow up believing that “Yuma” or “La Yuma” is not just the country to the North or a place in Arizona or a place to be at 3:05, but a destiny that is kept in a safe private place in their mind. It is a special place where they believe that all of their dreams of streets paved with gold and fantasies of the material good life exist and will come true. Only the closest friends share this allusion with each other. It is rarely spoken of openly. In their mind Yuma is that place to reach no matter what. As a result of seeking this allusion, hundreds of people have lost their lives trying to get to that illusion named Yuma.

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