Well, this week, I was asked to look back over my material, and the pictures, and to go into more detail about why I chose particular angles, imagery, the appearance and size, and most particularly, the story I'm trying to convey to others.
When I look over these pictures, I cannot help but feel that this place separates itself by creating an identity. Thinking about McDonalds and Olive Garden and all of these other places that serve food, it's weird to think how they are merely decoration and aesthetic attention-grabbers.
From these pictures, you can tell that the Cuban Restaurant is authentic. That, if you walk in through the doors, you're guaranteed to be greeted, and any questions or topics about Cuba and the like will be treated with warm stories, humor, and laughter as well as great food, drinks, and an interest in you, not specifically your money.
I think that that is why there was no particular skill at taking these pictures. There was no prior preparation, skill, or finesse. These pictures were all taken on my camera phone, on the spot. And I think that is the beauty of them. They are original. It sparks originality, and uniqueness. Like if you walk into a Japanese restaurant, you expect there to be some tokens of Japan, reminiscent of The Great Wall, feudal ages, and samurai, emperors, and the like.
Now, that is not to say that America fails to have an identity. If you were to walk into a McDonalds overseas, you would see the same key elements there that you would here. Quality, cleanliness, efficiency, and food that satisfies hunger.
But McDonalds, like other American businesses, aren't interested in chatting or conversation. About getting to know people on a personal level, and cooking for the general satisfaction rather than expectation.
Now don't get me wrong. We are all attuned to different standards and different levels of cooking. But food, like it or not, is diverse and what we'll call, culturious. It does not discriminate, it brings everyone closer together, and more importantly, it comes with a proud label of heritage, age, and respect.
During our last visit, when my girlfriend and I took the pictures, we conversed with the owners, Jose and Suzie, Val's cousins, about another restaurant they had tried.
Suzie, hearing of another Cuban restaurant, visited the so-called authentic business while she was in the area. Upon sitting down, she ordered toast. The first red flag was when the waitress offered her a choice of white bread or wheat.
Now, for those who aren't fortunate enough to date a Cuban won't know that wheat or any bread other than white is considered inauthentic and borderline-insulting to the way of Cuban cooking.
The second breaking point was when Suzie tried to order a tortilla and was again, given a choice of cornmeal or flour. Even I was caught off-guard but it turns out that a tortilla is a type of Spanish omelette where eggs, potatoes, and other foods are added for a quick meal at any time. The offense here of course, miscommunication; specifically that of offering just a tortilla of a wrap-like quality, or an actual dish called the tortilla.
And that is ultimately what I'm getting at. Looking at these pictures, food included, you can see that there is no boast or need to challenge the authenticity. The arrangement of the pictures is natural. It didn't require some person to come in, research the Cuban lifestyle and habits, and then import relics and similar objects that hold fascination. These are people who live the traits, who are proud and represent who they are through their food.
I think one of the best pictures I took was the arrangement of the dominoes, the mini-palm tree, and the packet of cigarettes. If you were to travel to Georgia and go to the counter of this establishment, rest-assured, you would find these elements.
And I think that that is the most important lesson pulled out of photography. Of course we can ask people to participate, to fake, or show parts of a story that we want others to see. But photographs aren't just about weddings and birthdays. It isn't just the happiness. It's about life. The natural misery, frustration, sorrowful moments that make us thankful for what we have.
And the tropos of the pictures are exactly that. The stories of each item beg for a question that will be followed with comfortable leisurely conversations and a profound interest in the Cuban background.