Creative Fusion Outcomes: Greg Martin returns to Havana to exhibit at Fábrica de Arte Cubano

Wet plate collodion photo by Greg Martin, Amber and Pierre (Cleveland).

Cleveland photographer Greg Martin traveled to Cuba as part of the Cleveland Foundation Creative Fusion cohort in the winter of 2017. While in Havana and Matanzas, he made photographs of locals using the wet plate collodion process, a complex technique that dates to the early days of photography. It involves first dipping a piece of glass or metal in a bath of photosensitive chemicals, and putting it in the camera while it is still wet to capture the image. It then has to be developed within about fifteen minutes, which requires a portable darkroom or darkbox in which to process the plate on location (not to mention carrying along the caustic chemicals needed). After a few hiccups (one of his chemicals was contaminated) and with support from Cuban photographer Pilar Rubí (an artist supported by a Creative Fusion residency in Cleveland), Martin successfully created many photos in Cuba. Phase Two—while Rubí was in Cleveland—involved shooting portraits in Public Square, Glenville and Clark-Fulton. Martin’s photos from the project have been exhibited in several venues, including the offices of the Cleveland Foundation and, early in 2018, at University Hospitals.

But from the very beginning, Martin made a promise to himself that, if at all possible, he would return to Cuba and show the full body of work there. He kept in touch not only with Pilar Rubí, but also Creative Fusion residents Sofia Marques de Aguiar and Ernesto Jimenez (who founded the famous Fábrica de Arte Cubano, an art hive that has re-animated a former cooking oil factory in Havana). Now Martin makes good on his promise with Synchronicity: Portraits from Havana, Matanzas and Cleveland, which opened February 28 and will be on view through March 31 at FAC. The exhibition will be shown on the venue’s Pared Negra (Black Wall), which is dedicated to photography. He reached out to Jimenez and Aguiar months ago, then proposed the exhibit to FAC’s photo curators. Presenting the photo show required extensive coordination due to the challenges of shipping art internationally, especially in and out of Cuba. Rubí helped him choose from locally available paper to get the images printed, and then to get them framed, all in Havana.

The ripple effect of the exchange continued as Martin helped FAC photo curator Irolán Maroselli locate and buy a Bolex 16mm movie camera, and coordinated delivery to him in Havana. As a result, Maroselli is now making 16mm experimental films and showing them in Cuba.

Martin traveled to Cuba to install the work, attend the opening, and run a master class in the wet plate collodion process at the FAC.