What readers are saying about La Habana Vieja

Chip Cooper has spent the last three decades defining a sense of place that few, if any, modern photographers have been able to capture. The images throughout his books have not only been poignantly beautiful, they have also raised awareness of our architectural past and the need to preserve it. With his latest book, Old Havana, it seems clear to me that Chip is working at the kind of world-class level we may not have seen since the days of Walker Evans and Dorothea Lange. He is THAT good.

Mark Mayfield, former Editor-in-Chief of House Beautiful magazine

 It’s fascinating to see the same city through two sets of highly observant eyes. Chip Cooper is swept away, enthralled by the sky, the sea, the color and heat of life in one of the Western Hemisphere’s most fascinating cities. Nestor Marti’s vision is closer to the earth; he seeks out the surfaces of decay and the irony of poverty amidst tropical richness. Joined together, their visions are complementary and moving – a testament to two ways of seeing, echoing and informing the contrasts between Cuba and the United States.

Mark Childress, author of Georgia Bottoms and Crazy in Alabama

Chip and Nestor have captured the essence of old Havana , – its people, its harbor, its streets and alleyways, balconies and balustrades. Lives passing by windows and arched doorways, an older world fixed in time, hauntingly familiar somehow,…the spirit perhaps of a longed-for deja vu, an adventure to be had.”

Jim Harrison 3rd, Chairman Arts Council, Alabama State Council on the Arts

 Even if you’ve been to the old city of Havana, you haven’t really seen it fully, or understood it fully, until you’ve seen this timeless and timely portrait of one of the most fascinating and romantic places in the world. Cooper and Marti, united in and inspired by their admiration for the great American photographer Walker Evans–are wonderfully complementary masters of their art. In Their photographs–vibrant, respectful, witty, and sometimes truly epic in their vision–along with the accompanying texts–create a kind of imagistic dialogue. The result is a moving panorama of past and present, generality and specificity, the stillness of stone, the drama of the sea, the vividness of the human presence and present in a place saturated by the past. It’s a really spectacularly beautiful and sophisticated book.

Daniel Menaker, former editor The New Yorker, former Executive Editor in Chief Random House, & author of Friends and Relations: A Collection of Stories, The Old Left: Stories, and “The Treatment”

 Like so many Americans my age, Havana was that exotic, other-worldly paradise where our parents’ generation dreamed of lulling away the hours in the sun in those heady years of the American Century, after World War II. That is, until revolution transformed this dream into ours nation’s collective nightmare. My childhood is filled with memories of the “Missile Crisis,” neighbors’ bomb shelters and air raid drills. Yet, in it all, Havana as it truly was, was lost in both our dreams and in our nightmare. We seemed somehow to never get it right.

Chip Cooper and Nestor Marti’s Havana: Spirit of the Living City / La Habana: El espiritu de la ciudad viva is a gift to all of us. Their images are filled with the life, vitality and passion that is Havana. They tell a story of this magnificent place in the alleys and the plazas, on the facades and in the faces of the living.

Maybe Walker Evans did get it right when he made his way, camera on tripod, through these same streets and alleys by day, meeting up with Hemingway by night, but few have followed. That is until now. Cooper and Marti have captured the soul of this place, this truly beautiful place.

 Robert Hicks, author of The Widow of the South and A Separate Country

 The photographs are full of love for the Cubans and … give us the dignity that really fills us with pride.

Julio Larramendi Photographer & Author, Havana, Cuba

 Photographing Cuba has become a must do cliché for photographers. Go there and find the same old rusting cars and rotting buildings done a million times. What’s the point?

Chip Cooper arrives to collaborate with native Nestor Marti, and I don’t know if that made a difference; but Cooper goes way beyond the worn-out clichés. He was smart enough to hold off the first time he set eyes on a strange, foreign land and resisted photographing things that only looked strange to foreigners. He soaked up the people, places and long culture of the country, the sights, sounds and smells and then he went to work to document with images and his feelings.

What results is like a fresh morning wind blowing off the Atlantic. It feels so good! Cooper sees the port as stormy, perhaps a metaphor of the past and the future. Nestor Marti sees it more calm and sunny. It is wonderful to see the viewpoints of two photographers in love with the country and its people.

Our eyes feast on people fishing, sitting, and enjoying the sun. A street corner becomes magical in the twilight.

I know the freshness, poetry and charm of these photos because as Photo Editor of TIME magazine I saw millions of photos over 25 years, including thousands of Cuba in conflict and peace.

What Chip Cooper and Nestor Marti have accomplished should be seen by everyone who is fascinated by the great country south of the United States. Go there and see for yourself through their images.

ROBERT STEVENS, former Photo Editor, Time Magazine