It was not yet 10am, but Juan Carlos Espinosa was sweating when he exited his Soviet-era Lada sedan in front of a photography studio in the middle-class Havana neighborhood of 10 de Octubre.
With temperatures in the high-20s and humidity lying thick over the city, Espinosa wore a black T-shirt as he posed for a visa photograph in front of a white sheet. Then, in a side room, Lian Marrero worked magic: digitally cutting away the T-shirt with a photograph-editing program and pasting in a somber black suit with a neatly knotted gray tie.
Marrero hit print and Espinosa had a set of three professional-looking identification photographs of himself in a suit that once belonged to a total stranger, or might have never existed at all.
Tens of thousands of Cubans stare out of identification photographs in elegant suits and dressy blouses they have never actually worn. Each imperceptibly altered photograph is a tiny tribute to Cubans’ finely honed ability to apply ingeniously home-brewed technical solutions to the problems of an island beset by economic scarcity.
In this case the problem is minor: how to look one’s best in official photographs when tropical heat, lack of air conditioning and tight family budgets make it highly impractical to wear dressy clothes to the local photography studio.
The answer: over-the-counter photograph-editing programs and an informal sharing network of photography studio owners who trade images of suits and blouses among themselves.
Marrero, a 27-year-old electrician who runs a busy photography studio in the front room of the home he shares with his wife, said they had offered clients actual clothing to try on, but people found it unappealing to wear clothes that others had been sweating in.
“We realized that people preferred the idea of digital suits,” he said. “We ended up with three real suits and 10 digital ones,” and eventually the shop got rid of the real clothes entirely.
The demand for altered photographs has diminished as more Cuban and foreign government agencies equip themselves with the ability to take in-house digital photographs. However, many foreign consulates still require visa applicants to bring their own head shots, and since few explicitly prohibit altering photographs, the digital suit business is still flourishing.
“Wearing a suit in Cuba isn’t easy,” Espinosa said. “Here, we have the ability to pick whichever one we want.”
‘SACRIFICED’: Hu Weifeng became the sixth doctor to die from COVID-19 at Wuhan Central Hospital, where calls to raise the alarm over the virus were suppressed The death of a Chinese doctor at Wuhan’s “whistle-blower hospital” has prompted a wave of anger at hospital authorities for not protecting front-line health workers in the face of the COVID-19 outbreak. Hu Weifeng (胡衛鋒), 42, a urologist at Wuhan Central Hospital where the whistle-blower ophthalmologist Li Wenliang (李文亮) worked, died of the virus on Tuesday after a four-month battle. Hu is the sixth doctor from his hospital killed by the virus. Another doctor who spoke out, Ai Fen (艾芬), said that authorities told hospital staff not to wear protective gear so as not to cause panic and reprimanded her for “harming
‘LEAST WE CAN DO’: The gesture was made famous by former NFL quarterback Colin Kaepernick, who was protesting police brutality that targeted minorities They are images that surprised and moved Americans: police officers taking a knee alongside protesters in the most widespread civil unrest to rock the US in decades — and in doing so embracing an anti-racism gesture denounced by US President Donald Trump. As Trump pushes for a crackdown on often-violent protests over the death of George Floyd, police officers from New York to Los Angeles to Houston, Texas, are making gestures of solidarity with demonstrators incensed at the latest case of an unarmed black man dying while in police custody. “I took off the helmet and laid the batons down. Where do
RALLYING A DEFENSE: Former envoys wrote an op-ed piece defending Anna Lindstedt, who was removed for attempting to free Swedish book publisher Gui Minhai in China Sweden’s former ambassador to Beijing goes on trial in Stockholm on Friday for allegedly overstepping her mandate by trying to negotiate the release of a Chinese-Swedish dissident held in China. Anna Lindstedt is accused of brokering an unauthorized meeting during her time as ambassador to free publisher Gui Minhai (桂民海). Lindstedt — a veteran envoy who had previously represented Sweden in both Vietnam and Mexico, and acted as Sweden’s chief negotiator at the 2015 climate summit in Paris — has denied the charges. Gui, a Chinese-born Swedish citizen known for publishing gossipy titles about Chinese political leaders out of a Hong Kong book
From boiled catfish soup to spicy fried frog, an eight-year-old in pyjamas and a chef’s hat is delighting Myanmar with her culinary prowess in a nation still being told to stay at home due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Moe Myint May Thu’s mother posted a video online at the end of April showing off her daughter’s skills as the youngster threw together some spicy fried prawns. With her wide, gap-toothed grin, the video has bounced across social media and brought stardom to the child along with an online moniker: “Little Chef.” She now sells dishes to order and is counting the dividends. “I just