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Havana: The Photography of Hans Engels Hardcover – September, 1999

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher

Ever since Fidel Castro came to power as the leader of Cuba's communist regime in 1959, Havana has remained all but impenetrable to the outside world. The revolution cut Cuba off from the West, but at the same time preserved a century of built substance and style through the accident of fmancial stagnation. Without capital investment, time stood still, and five epochs of architectural style have survived to the present day. From the majesty of colonial city palaces to the half-hearted hope of heroic modernism, Engels' photographs show a city in silent transition, a microcosm of architecture through the ages. All of the structures picttired here were built in the twentieth century, but for the most part they have suffered from neglect in the form of peeling paint and stucco, &M grime, and abandonment. Yet there is utter beauty and dignity here-a sense of being trapped in time-that is no longer evident in America's everchanging cities. Like the structures he photographs, Engels uses a timeless approach to the artistic and technical aspect of his work. He uses a Sinar catnera with a 4 x 5 inch format, standing under a darkening cloth, just as photographers did a century ago. Using a Polaroid image to feel and see the light, Engels takes a single shot of each building. Most of these images were taken during die month of February, in 1997 and 1999 respectively. These photographs of apartment dwellings, office buildings, private residences, and places of worship tell a story on their own. Their haunting images seem to speak about more than just the men who made them or the materials they are made of. The buildings and streetscapes depicted in Havana speak to us of yesterday, today, and tomorrow. They are resonant with history, and with culture, and they tell us a story that is not really about architecture at all, but one of change and immutability, of despair and hope.

About the Author

HANS ENGELS is a Munich-based photographer who has been specializing in architectural topics-from historical themes to modern trends for almost twenty years. His photographs have been published in numerous books and magazines, and have been featured in exhibitions throughout Europe.
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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 104 pages
  • Publisher: Prestel Publishing; 1st edition (September 1999)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 3791321579
  • ISBN-13: 978-3791321578
  • Product Dimensions: 12.1 x 9.8 x 0.7 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 2.4 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (3 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,452,097 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

7 of 7 people found the following review helpful By Diane E. Meza on October 23, 2000
Format: Hardcover
This books presents the beautiful and rich architecture found throughout Havana. Through his pictures Engels lets the architecture speak for itself. Beth Dunlop's 5 page introduction is concise and to the point; a great compliment. Great pictures, a treasure collection.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Iggy Todd on April 16, 2001
Format: Hardcover
My boss gave me this book for Christmas. Boy, did he pick the right gift. Engels' architectural photography is breathtaking. Even thought the splendid colonial buildings depicted in this book appear to be falling apart, one can't help but be mesmerized by the ghostly beauty of it all. Through these photos it appears as if Havana has been become frozen in another, more prosperous era, but has never been maintained since. What you take away from the book is a city that is eerily beautiful precisely because it seems as if it is only a skeleton of what once was. If you are, like me, a lover of architecture, these photographs will make you feel terribly sad because so much grandeur is rapidly vanishing. At the same time, there are more than enough traces of splendid architectural details seen in this book, albeit in crumbling pieces, to make any fan of architecture want to see more of Havana. I gained much from this book, especially seeing, with my sometimes too-American eyes, how a very close and small Caribbean neighbor has architecture that at times seems to rival that of European capitals. I highly recommend this book.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on January 15, 2002
Format: Hardcover
This is a superb book! The photos are excellent, showing Cuba as it truly is today, with whatever still stands after four decades of inattention. Anyone who has not seen Cuba in 40 years should pereuse this book. The photographer does not make a political statement of any sort -- he merely records the beauty that is there. One of the few books about Cuba that I would recommend to anyone, regardless of political sympathies.
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