“The biggest misconception about Cubans is that they don’t like Americans. Not true. They love Americans. They embrace us. They are the kindest, most engaging people I’ve ever met,” Byron Motley tells TNJ.com about Cuba.
He should know. Over the past decade, Motley has traveled there numerous times. And each time, he becomes more enamored. So much so that he wrote a book about it.
Embracing Cuba (University Press of Florida), released in September, is a photographic book containing nearly 200 color images (with essays) exploring the richness of the island.
“I’ve traveled there quite a bit and had a plethora of photos. I wanted the public to get a sense of my vision of what Cuba is all about. It’s a fascinating country that has great colors and textures and the people are wonderful. It’s very different from our culture in that, at one point, it was a forbidden land. But it has a special spirit about it, unlike anyplace I’ve ever been,” he shares.
According to Motley, the feeling is mutual. “During my travels there, anytime people found out that I was from America, they gushed and told me how much they loved America. We have been led to believe that Cuba is an evil, small empire that was out to get us and threaten us for the last 50 years. But there is no animosity. People should not be afraid of Cuba and Cuban people,” he says.
Motley’s work has appeared in Vanity Fair, The Advocate, The New York Daily News, Los Angeles Times and has been featured in galleries, boutiques, museums across the U.S., Europe and Cuba. Described as a modern day Renaissance man, he is also an accomplished singer, songwriter, filmmaker and lecturer. He is currently producing a documentary about the Negro Baseball League. In fact, photographing baseball in Cuba was his original idea for the book.
“I would walk from sunup to sundown and take whatever photo presented itself to me, although I initially wanted to capture the baseball element since I am a big baseball fan. That was my focus early on. As I got more immersed in the country and realized that there is so much to capture there photographically, I started to broaden my horizon and I began shooting anything and everything,” notes Motley.
Embracing Cuba is available online and in bookstores.