Roberto Polo Gallery

The Gallery will close for Easter on Sunday, April 16th, 2017;

Carl De Keyzer

Artist Statement





  • Carl De Keyzer | Cuba: The Big Change by Alma Guillermoprieto | The New York Review of Books


    United States

  • Carl De Keyzer | Melancholy displays of artificial happiness, by Gabriela Salgado | Capital Arte



    LA LUCHA MELANCHOLY DISPLAYS OF ARTIFICIAL HAPPINESS THE PHOTOGRAPHER ENGAGES ONCE MORE IN A QUEST TO WITNESS WHAT SEEMS TO BE THE END OF SOCIALISM After decades of political immobility, Cuba is now becoming the focus of international attention. Those who once were charismatic young leaders guiding the nation toward progressive changes have remained in power until today, despite a lengthy economic crisis. According to reports from human rights organisations, thousands of opponents have been incarcerated since the start of the Castro regime and a large part of the Cuban population has gone into exile, either for political or for economic reasons. La lucha, the struggle, is the most common Cuban expression to denote its permanent state of being since the collapse of the economy in the nineties. Coined by the people to define their struggle for survival, and common currency since the crisis, this term is still being used even today. Carl De Keyzer 's eponymous latest work on Cuba, which echoes this fighting spirit, presents his observation of the changes the island is undergoing in this day and age. Carl De Keyzer has published books on themes as widely varied as religion (God, Inc., 1992), colonisation (Congo (Belge) – Congo Belge en images, 2009), the ecology (Moments Before the Flood, 2012), the prison system (Zona, 2003) and political change (Homo Sovieticus, 1989, and East of Eden, 1996). Basically, the central focus of his projects resides in his observation of systems invented to organise mankind. Internal control mechanisms and their effects on society fascinate him. His work manages to avoid any obvious criticisms and to focus on the subtlety of humour, the surprises and vulnerability emerging from daily life. This is how he presents the effects of change, decoding its impact in countless poetical, intimate moments that defy scepticism. Unlike most photographers working as reporters, his photographs are not documentary, as his endeavour is not aiming for realism. At the start of his persistent exploration of the collapse of Socialism, the photographer focused on Armenia, Uzbekistan, Russia and Lithuania, finally covering all fifteen Soviet Republics, always determining his concept beforehand and planning ahead, as he is well aware that the opportunity to capture an instant is always fleeting. His use of the flash and slow shutter speed to intensify the contrast and illuminate key elements of the image has become his aesthetic mark. As in neorealist Italian movies, reality reveals itself as simultaneously crude and poetic. Carl De Keyzer has now embarked on another photographic quest to witness what seems to be the end of Socialism. He went to Cuba in January 2015, after President Obama's much publicised announcement of his intention to re-establish relations between Cuba and the United States. In his historic speech, Obama proclaimed an end to the sanctions that have weighed heavily on the Cuban people, and, making a memorable political gesture, publicly acknowledged that the embargo benefited neither state, while at the same time also imposing one condition: "We are calling on Cuba to unleash the potential of 11 million Cubans by ending unnecessary restrictions on their political, social, and economic activities." The intention was clear: both sides in a battle, sustained for fifty six years, now have to actively pursue this rapprochement, on the purported condition that the ruling Socialist system on the island ceases to exist. In Cuba, la lucha, scenes of people afflicted by material shortages, framed by deteriorated houses, seem inevitable. We have grown accustomed to the visual repertory of Cuba, as represented in the media, characterised by the material decline of the city, and the nostalgic images of antiquated American cars gliding toward the Malecón esplanade. Even when the photographer is making a conscious effort to avoid these clichés, this cannot be entirely successful in a nation that, while trying to shake off these old stereotypes, is also conspicuously keen to exploit them to promote its tourist industry. In contrast with this iconography, some of Carl De Keyzer's shots look like melancholy displays of artificial happiness, for instance the scene, simultaneously kitschy and full of despair, of a wedding, calling to mind Martin Parr's nightmares in Technicolor depicting suburban Britain. Less saturated and ever familiar, the effigies of Che Guevara adorning an obsolete bank branch, or inserted in the pages of an atlas of Cuba, yield a sarcastic comment on indoctrination. In general terms, looking at these images, we can feel like intruders in the private, social spaces Cubans are nonetheless prepared to share with us, the curious visitors from abroad. This feeling derives as much from the ambivalence of a present shaken up by internal changes and the enormous, proverbial curiosity of the rest of the world about the particular nature of Cuba. In Cuba, la lucha, the questions remain unanswered, open like gaping wounds or burgeoning fresh flowers, given the fact that the central theme of this series is the change, which is, for that matter, not only painful but also unfathomable. This uncertainty is apparent from his oblique portraits of individuals, their bodies in contact with buildings in ruins, immersed in garish colour fields, engaging in their daily routines.

  • Carl De Keyzer | Cuba, la lucha | Shoot



    Carl De Keyzer - CUBA, LA LUCHA Belgian photographer Carl De Keyzer went on a three-month trip to Cuba. He returned with unique images of a country in transition from Communist to Capitalist systems. • E.D This was close to my hotel. A glance at an old car, a portrait of Che, the logo of the SuperStar talent show on German television – and then this SuperMario walked into the frame. I just could not miss this. The Belgian photographer Carl De Keyzer has been a member of Magnum photography agency since 1994. Earlier trips brought him to India, the Soviet Union and Eastern Europe, the United States and the Congo. For Moments Before the Flood (2012), he travelled along the coastline of the European continent, under threat of rising sea levels. We are visiting Carl De Keyzer at his home, in the peace and quiet of the East-Flanders village, where he settled two years ago. The proofs of the new book have been approved, the prints for the exhibition in Roberto Polo Gallery are ready: the photographer is visibly enjoying the calm after a hectic period. Carl De Keyzer: After Moments Before the Flood, I was really fed up. I even considered giving up photography. I had been travelling for eighteen months, and looking at the results of the exhibitions and the book, I considered these somewhat meagre in comparison with my efforts. I didn't want to do this kind of big project anymore. My age was certainly a factor: I'm no longer this stripling who went backpacking in India for six months. I just wanted to teach a bit, and for the rest start taking it easy. And yet, suddenly there was this inner drive again. I still had a few projects lying around that I could carry out in the short term without being away from home for a year. Cuba was one of them. Shoot: But why Cuba? C.D.K.: Cuba was actually a piece of cake. It is like my Congo project, in which I also show a lot of ruins and decay. With the end of the Soviet Union, Cuba had suddenly lost its major sponsor. Now everybody thinks it will just be a matter of time before the system collapses. Every day a house literally collapses in Havana, because there are no materials to maintain the buildings. Yet, miraculously, they manage to keep the system going – also because Fidel refuses to die [laughs]. In the end, it took quite a while before I could leave for Cuba. I intended to stay for three months, even though as a tourist, you are normally only granted a one-month visa. In December 2014, there was Obama's speech in which he announced that he wanted to ease the trade restrictions. At that moment, I really thought I had left it too long. Finally, I was able to set off in January of last year, and it proved to be the perfect moment. Obama's speech had quite an impact: there is hope among the Cubans once more. Such timing is crucial. I can't predict the future, but I try to take it into account. I had just finished my book Homo Sovieticus, for instance, when the Berlin Wall came down. Shoot: What did you shoot in Cuba? C.D.K.: Obviously, Cuba is a huge cliché. I didn't want to take those typical pictures with beautiful old-timers and derelict buildings. That has been done often enough. My first idea was to only take pictures inside – in principle, Cuba is more interesting inside than outside. During the first week, I shot inside people's homes. Inside you see poverty, sadness, people who are just, like the Communist state, waiting for the end. But I just couldn't bear to keep that up. On principle, I do not photograph victims, sick people, corpses: I find that too easy. So after that, it became a kind of road trip through Cuba, with more symbolic images. The combination of a Communist regime with a Central-American country does provide thrilling images. Shoot: As you said, Cuba has been photographed quite often. How did you avoid the stereotypes? C.D.K.: It's too easy just to shoot beautiful pictures. Aesthetics cannot be an aim in itself. I think beauty is important, but content – to use a big word – is just as important. The series Moments Before the Flood consists of nice images, but they do announce disaster. This element is also present in Cuba, la lucha. They are not just nice photos of derelict houses or old factory buildings, the ones you can find in abundance on the internet. I tried to add something extra; that is my style: in between, ecstasy, irony and criticism – with a hint of the surreal. That is also why my images are meant to be viewed in large format; every detail has a role to play. But you also have to stop at a certain point, because an image that is too complex, doesn't work anymore. Shoot: Does such an approach still work in this fleeting Instagram era? C.D.K.: If I wanted to score on Instagram, I'd have shot beautiful girls or old taxis. Instagram is not the right medium for my work. I've built up a certain oeuvre; I have my own way of looking, my own way of thinking. And today, there are more people than ever before who appreciate that, who are really interested in photography. When I look at the numbers of people that come to exhibitions, the numbers of people buying photo books – they just keep increasing. I will continue to make this kind of work. They are not ready-made, not fast food. People are not going to buy this book because they had a wonderful holiday on Cuba. They might do that by mistake, but then they are in for a shock [laughs]. ABOVE: At first I only wanted to take pictures inside people's homes. But it was so pitiful that I couldn't keep it up. - ©Carl De Keyzer BELOW: Recently, Cubans have been allowed to set up their own company. Photoshoots on the occasion of a girl's fifteenth birthday, when she becomes an adult, are very popular. They really are like wedding photoshoots at home. - ©Carl De Keyzer If I wanted to score on Instagram, I'd have shot beautiful girls or old taxis. Shoot: What is the meaning of the title of the book? C.D.K.: La lucha means 'struggle', and the word has multiple meanings in Cuba. It refers to the daily struggle to survive; Cubans are not well off, with an average monthly income of $30, and everything is rationed. There is a constant search for food, parts and materials. La lucha also refers to the struggle for Socialism, the struggle to keep believing in Socialist ideals, in spite of the embargo and the opposition abroad. When I was 18, I had leftist leanings, like everyone of my age then. But my first travels to the Soviet Union quickly cured me of those: that was not the ideal world. In Cuba, the system still controls the population; every neighbourhood has its 'revolutionary committee' keeping an eye on the inhabitants. But also that is slowly disintegrating; mostly the committee consists of a granny behind a desk. There is also a third, more ironic meaning: la lucha is the name of a chain of co-operative DIY stores. Shoot: Could you tell us something about the technical aspects? C.D.K.: The style is similar to the one in my earlier books, but this time I worked without a flash. Today's digital cameras don't require a flash anymore. Flash lighting was characteristic of my style, but also a mere necessity. In India and the Soviet Union, I was often working in large halls with many people, and using 400 ASA film rolls required the use of flash. For Moments Before the Flood, I used a Phase One digital medium-format camera, but that was slow going, with a tripod, at ISO 100 or 200. For this book, I shot everything with a medium-format Pentax 645Z – with Pentax also sponsoring the project. The 645Z is a bit cumbersome, but the autofocus is fast enough for reporting purposes. I worked with sensitivities between 800 and 12,500 ISO and even in large-format prints there is hardly any noise. I still prefer the medium format – I'm not a 35 mm photographer. Even when I was using a Nikon D800E, I was cropping the images to end up with a 6 x 7 or 6 x 4.5 image ratio. I love the painting-like serenity of that format. Shoot: The theme of this issue of Shoot is children and adolescents. What is the impression you receive from your young students? C.D.K.: They are more professional than we were. In our final year, we went to Normandy for a week, and we thought that was a big adventure. Now they're off to Japan or Alaska, or present projects on the drug trade in Colombia. Their scope is the world, they have much more information and they use it. I consider it an honour to be able to teach and experience that. The speed with which they spot things, evolve, make links, is sometimes mind-blowing. Because of digitalization, photography has become much more accessible, much cheaper. It is also much faster. After a three-month trip I would spend another three months in the darkroom. Nowadays my students show me on Monday the two hundred photos they shot over the weekend. I do tell them: please come back when you have selected the top ten of those [laughs]. With a digital camera hardly anything can go wrong anymore. You end up with more technically usable images; the danger is that you're too easily satisfied. In a manner of speaking, I could come back from a trip and have a book and an exhibition ready within a week. But you do need time to let it all sink in. I don't show more photos than I used to. The downside of this accessibility is that there are many more photographers today, making it more difficult to earn a living. But I find photography an extremely valuable study, even if you can't turn professional; it enriches everyone. Shoot: After looking at OdysSea, the documentary that Jimmy Kets made about your work, a friend of mine said: "Doesn't this guy have the best job in the world?" Would you agree? C.D.K.: The best thing in life is to be able to determine what you do with your own time, and I do have that luxury. I don't have to teach – I do it because I like it. Two or three times a year, I take on a big commission. For the rest I choose my own subjects, and I decide myself how much time I want to spend on something. Even though my photography is not the most accessible, I can make a living without having to compromise. In that respect, I am one of the luckiest photographers of this country. There is not much more I could wish for. I still prefer the medium format. I love the painting-like serenity of that format. ABOVE: Boxing is the most popular sport in Cuba. - ©Carl De Keyzer BELOW: I remember this kind of funfair attractions from my trips to the Soviet Union. The operator has fallen asleep, so maybe this ride will just keep going round and round. - ©Carl De Keyzer LEFT: Cuba is now on the itinerary of the giant cruise ships in the Caribbean. - ©Carl De Keyzer BELOW: Every year there is a book fair where mainly Russian books and old novels such as Dickens' works are sold. There is a festive atmosphere, but everything is strictly regulated. - ©Carl De Keyzer RIGHT: This is another of those symbolic images. I had seen the American and Cuban flags. The sun was just perfectly aligned with the Cuban one. Then the blind man walked by, with a dollar sign on his cap. I quickly rang the doorbell and asked if I could take a picture from the balcony – the presence of a half-naked woman sunbathing there was of no interest to me. I was just in time to press the shutter. - ©Carl De Keyzer

  • Carl De Keyzer | Che, Fidel and the last iPhone, by Sam Steverlynck | Agenda



    Che, Fidel and the last iPhone There is no doubt that Cuba is at a turning point. No better moment for Magnum photographer Carl De Keyzer to point his camera at the early signs of a regime change. SAM STEVERLYNCK (translation by Raf Erzeel) After having portrayed 'homo sovieticus' just before the fall of the USSR, Carl De Keyzer now records the equally fascinating process of the communist 'chachacha' regime in Cuba slowly but surely opening up in the direction of a free-market economy. De Keyzer shows the last paroxysms of a country where time has stood still, even though the system has serious cracks. Though the combative slogans and the portraits of Che Guevara and Fidel Castro are ubiquitous, they are also literally fading. One of the most powerful images of the exhibition at Roberto Polo Gallery is the one of a blind man tapping his way across a chalk street painting, praising the reconciliation between Cuba and the U.S. – an image that tells it all. One omen of this nearly inevitable revolution is the invasion of (American) tourists. De Keyzer ruthlessly records this 'homo turisticus', basking by the pool, while merely a few feet away, on the other side of a high fence, dreary blocks of flats are languishing. Another tourist is enjoying the sunshine in a rocking chair on the patio of a colonial villa, with a display of postcards of a cigar-smoking Fidel and Che behind her – or how the propaganda machine of the regime and the capitalist tourist industry seem to go together surprisingly well. This friction, this paradigm change, is what De Keyzer is able to capture, often with a wry irony and not without humour. Vintage cars still trundle through Havana, even though one driver has put a tv-screen in his battered old-timer. Also the iPhone has found its way in; a seller of charming paintings is languidly playing on his phone, with the same apathy we find in the capitalist West. The population seems to long for liberalization, but is mentally stuck in the system, as is clearly shown in a picture of an attendant in a rusty funfair, sleeping in her booth. One thing is clear: the struggle is not over yet.

  • Carl De Keyzer | Cuba Just Before Coca Cola, by Jean-Marie Binst | Brussel Deze Week



    Cuba just before Coca Cola Havana, the Sleeping Beauty, after over half a century of economic stranglehold by the U.S. Brussels – The writing on the wall says that Havana, like Sleeping Beauty, will soon wake up after over half a century of economic stranglehold by the U.S.; Magnum photographer Carl De Keyzer went there just in time to load his camera with images. He has hung the premises of the Roberto Polo Gallery with around sixty large-format photos. His exhibition is called Cuba, la lucha, after the struggle for survival that the Cubans had to go through after the fall of the Berlin Wall. In the middle of August last year, the U.S. Embassy in Havana opened its doors. In September, a first limited load of American tourists was allowed in. The distance between Miami Beach and the artificial Varadero – not open to most Cubans – is about the same as the distance between Brussels and Paris. A new era has begun. After the Cuba Libre, no coke was available for half a century. The mentirita – the 'lying drink' as the Cubans call it, will return tomorrow, as Coca-Cola conquers its one-but-last market in the world. Together with iPhones, fashion brands, fridges, IKEA furniture and cars, "we will get two Chinese cars for every gas-guzzling American old-timer", is what they hope. It will push the still picture of Cuba towards 'big capital vs. bigger poverty', just like in Russia, De Keyzer already shows with his witness photos. Petrol station As for now, time has been undermining the carcass that is left of Havana. A lack of building materials and cash in most of the population means that the amazing pre-1950s residences, palaces, hotels and restaurants have never been restored. The exhibition can be read as a final tribute to an era, captured in time in a motionless image. It is also a tribute to the resilience of a people, who, in the shadow of American brio, practically outpaced Europeans in the first half of the 20th century. The accelerated modernisation of the car pool in the fifties bears witness to that. De Keyzer cannot help but capture these scenes with wrecks of wonderful car models. The dashboard of a taxi, not revealing that the cabdriver is an educated man – architect, engineer – in daily life. A petrol station that could have served as the background for James Dean or Saturday Night Fever, with an ad stating that the new Ford '58 is an automobile that compels admiration. And then the real communists, those who still visit the Che Guevara memorial and have a framed poster of the man above their beds. Diffidence But there are also the young. An amalgam of well-educated people dreaming of America. Indeed, education is apparently free, as are medical and social care. However, young people do not get the training they desire; enrolment systems lead to courses that are quickly full up. Moreover, medical training does cost a lot of money, as uniforms and materials have to be bought by the students. In other words: most of them do not get any chances. The photographer shows the disillusionment in a picture of a girl drawing her hopes from a laptop in the midst of a tangle of old printers that would be on the scrapheap in Europe. Or people who find solace in a wedding, their only chance to show some glamour and wealth to the outside world. It looks beautiful among the other images, those of faded grandeur. De Keyzer finds a lick of paint in Caribbean colours on the facade of crumbling houses reflected in clothing. It is the only thing, apart from the seriously pollut ed natural environment, that puts some spirit into the island. Only one feeling dominates the entire around sixty-picture photographic circuit: diffidence. Diffidence of the Cubans because of the restraints on their urge to better themselves; our diffidence because of our tacit consent of fifty years of stranglehold. by Jean-Marie Binst (translated by Raf Erzeel) ‘Cuba, la lucha’ is on until 15 May in Roberto Polo Gallery, Lebeaustraat 8-12, Brussels,, 02.502.56.50. Open Tue-Fri 2 - 6 p.m., Sat-Sun 11 a.m. – 6 p.m. Publication Cuba, la lucha, published by Lannoo, 176 pp., € 49.99.

  • Carl De Keyzer | Carl in Cuba by Wim Denolf |



    BOOK CARL IN CUBA In 1989, almost simultaneously with the fall of the Berlin Wall, Carl De Keyzer presented Homo Sovieticus: a book in which the Belgian photographer recorded the end of the Soviet Union. That earned him a nomination to membership of the distinguished Magnum Photo agency. Almost thirty years on, he again documents political revolution, the breakdown of a social utopia and its impact on ordinary people in Cuba. La Lucha is a book (Lannoo & Roberto Polo Gallery, € 49.99) and an exhibition at the Roberto Polo Gallery in Brussels. Also this time around, the timing is meticulous: just before De Keyzer arrived on the Caribbean island in January 2014, President Obama had announced an improvement in American-Cuban relations. The result is a sometimes disturbing portrait of a country in transition, hesitating between the promise of economic growth, the temptations of Capitalism, and the fear of losing its identity as well as its traditions. by Wim Denolf [translation by Raf Erzeel] Exhibition from 18 March until 15 May. Info:

  • Carl De Keyzer | Visionary of History, Carl De Keyzer Photographs Document Cuba's Struggle to Survive, by Ana Moriarty |



  • Carl De Keyzer | Cuba, the struggle, through the lens of photographer Carl de Keyzer, by Rik Van Puymbroeck | De Morgen



    Cuba, the struggle, through the lens of photographer Carl de Keyzer Just before the island becomes an ordinary country: 'Cuba, la lucha'. "History repeats itself", says Carl De Keyzer. The photographer gladly records this repetitive history of collapsing systems. After, among others, the Soviet Union and China, De Keyzer travelled to Cuba, just before Obama and the Stones will. De Morgen, 12 March 2016 - Rik Van Puymbroeck (translation by Raf Erzeel) He was driving along the Carretera Central, "a bit like the M1 of Cuba", which connects La Fé with Baracoa; a 777-mile-long, empty road, sometimes six lanes wide, in the Soviet manner. "For the tanks to be moved quickly." Suddenly, after having driven for an hour without seeing anyone, there was this family picnicking in the middle of the road. "My guide thought that was perfectly normal", says the Magnum photographer. " 'There's room to spare', he said." What is normal in Cuba? De Keyzer recognised the long queue for almost free Coppelia ice cream from the old Soviet Union where he was in 1988 and 1989. "The people need their sugar, and for 5 pesos or 1/5 CUC, the currency which you have to use as a tourist, you get a Coupe Hélène with banana. But that is really Soviet-like, and you can see that the whole system has been exported to Cuba. Fidel did not have much of a say in that." "You can also use metaphors to show how the system has failed." CARL DE KEYZER It is typical for De Keyzer to look at such a system. He recognises how people fend off things, and defend themselves; how the country evolves and how the leader might be embarrassed. First there was the Soviet Union. Then God, Inc. – in America: "Also religion is a system." He travelled to the emaciated Congo, and in Moments Before the Flood captured Europe's coastal line before it crumbles due to rising waters. Cuba, la lucha may be another 'moment before the flood'. There were tourists already, but Belgian consul Benoît Standaert advised them to go to the end of Varadero, where a new yachting harbour was being built. "There is room for 1,200 yachts – there are only four now – and next to it there is an American-style village with shops full of Dior and Swarovski and the prettiest girls. But no customers. The picture I took there is not my best, but just look at that tattooed Neanderthal hanging around. 'What the fuck', you see him think. But I think Obama's speech did not come out of the blue. You do not build something like this in a year; they knew." Havana, 2015. ©Carl de Keyzer Counter-revolution Cuba had been in De Keyzer's drawer for a long time; from a distance, he saw the gradual revolution, like in China. "People are fed up and tired, but they lack the strength for the counter-revolution. But when Obama spoke his words 'Todos somos Americanos', I thought for a moment: shit, I've missed my chance. It is a frozen country. The Soviet Union was in better shape in 1988 than Cuba is now. It is a weather-beaten country, as is Communism." Pinar del Rio, 2015. ©Carl De Keyzer "I could not get access to any hospital. The standard of education is high, though. But accommodation is horrible. Che did not know the first thing about economy." CARL DE KEYZER But he got there just in time, and also that is historical. On 9 November 1989, Homo Sovieticus was presented in Amsterdam, and the Berlin Wall came down exactly that evening. Now there is this book. Next week Barack Obama will go to Cuba and one week later the Rolling Stones will perform in Havana. "History also repeats itself in that: after the fall of the Soviet Union, Paul McCartney gave a concert there." Cuba and Havana have been photographed to death, and De Keyzer says he did not avoid the clichés. But la lucha ("also the name of a chain of DIY stores where you can buy wallpaper and cement") does not just show old-timers. Actually he only wanted to look inside. "But after one week I had fifteen portraits and poverty is so pervasive that I was in danger of making a book full of misery – whereas I prefer metaphors." A photographer without scruples would show all that, but De Keyzer remembered the criticism on the photos he took in the Congo. He did not want anything too 'in-your-face'. "You can also use metaphors to show how the system has failed. And it has, certainly in health care. I could not get access to any hospital. The standard of education is high, though. But accommodation is horrible. Che did not know the first thing about economy." Cuba abounds with skeletons: fancy haciendas and palaces that were hastily abandoned after the revolution. The rich occupants left the keys with the drivers and caretakers and shouted: "We'll be back in six months!" Those six months turned into 56 years. "Literally every day, some house or other collapses in Havana. But on markets you can now see women offering houses for $800,000. If you invest, you will get a new Venice there. Sadly, people only make $50 a month." Varadero, 2015. ©Carl De Keyzer Failed idea He had a good look around, and Cuba, la lucha, a phrase that was mainly used after Russia left the island to its own devices in 1994, offers a stifling image of a failed idea. Three months were enough for the following idea: "It was a crime to introduce Communism in Cuba. Although I am aware of the advantages of the system, this should be a splendid island, and now, after 56 years, it needs to be rebuilt completely. I am against dictators and Batista was corrupt and needed to go. But sometimes, like now in the case of the Middle East, you may wonder if it might not have been better to suffer Mubarak just a bit longer and to have a smoother transition without a revolution. That also goes for Cuba." Havana, 2015. ©Carl De Keyzer Before De Keyzer, other Magnum photographers (Steve McCurry, David Alan Harvey and Nikos Economopoulos) went to Cuba. There are wonderful books about the campo by Ernesto Bazan. But nobody saw the man playing the piano in a hacienda, against a background of threadbare chairs, the cruise ship in the harbour and the book market at the Havana fort where you can find a Dostoyevsky novel for 1 peso. For that, we needed De Keyzer's eyes in Cuba. Cuba, la lucha, Lannoo, 176 p., €49.99 Between 18 March and 15 May the exhibition of Carl De Keyzer's photos can be seen at the Roberto Polo Gallery in Brussels. Havana, 2015. ©Carl de Keyzer RELATED ARTICLES Cubaanse 'Sigarenman van het jaar' is een Belgische vrouw [Cuban 'cigar man of the year' is a Belgian woman] Zal Obama ook iets betekenen voor de mensenrechteren op Cuba? [Will Obama mean anything for human rights in Cuba?] READ MORE ABOUT photography Carl De Keyzer Cuba

  • Carl De Keyzer | Cuba, la lucha, by Jozefien Van Beek | Humo



  • Carl De Keyzer | Cuba - Museum of the Revolution, by Anna Luyten | Vrij Nederland



    PHOTO DOCUMENT CUBA – MUSEUM OF THE REVOLUTION Photos: Carl De KeyzerText: Anna Luyten – translation: Raf Erzeel Vrij Nederland – 12 March 2016 CARL DE KEYZER PHOTOGRAPHS PEOPLE WAKING UP FROM IDEOLOGICAL NARCOSIS. He did that in the Soviet Union, in the Congo, in the Eastern Bloc, in religious communities. Now it is Cuba's turn, at the pivotal moment between Communism and western Capitalism. "I had been waiting for a few years for the right moment to record the last convulsions of the Communist system in Cuba", says Belgian Magnum photographer Carl De Keyzer. On 17 December 2014, the American President Barack Obama announced in a speech that, after 55 years of enmity, he wanted to reach out a hand to Cuba, rather than push it over the edge. "Somod todos Americanos" – "We are all Americans" – said the President. A few days later, De Keyzer landed in Havana; he stayed for three months. He captured the country at the pivotal moment between Communism and western Capitalism. Indeed, when political restraints are relaxed, the resilience of citizens really becomes clear. Now, a few days before Obama's historical visit to Cuba, and the first public performance of The Rolling Stones in Havana, his photo book is published. THE MORES OF AN ERA Carl De Keyzer has always been fascinated by what happens 'on the way', both in people, and in political systems. He is an eyewitness of the course of history. He does not just want to shoot beautiful images. "When I look at something, I always wonder: can I do something with this beauty?" His images are a reflection on what was and what is about to happen. He does not make moral judgements; he does not want to be cynical, but photographs the mores of an era. He records the adaptability of people. "Cubans have to jump through all kinds of hoops. The signs of a society in transition are not necessarily obvious; mostly they are hardly noticeable. That combination of threat and decay, the beauty of the country and the warmth of people ensures the right balance." De Keyzer allows situations to speak for themselves. He dislodges deeply rooted images. He looks for the fringes. "There are enough clichés in Cuba: the vintage cars, taxis, pastel colours, portraits of Che Guevara and Fidel Castro." Those images of Che and Fidel are faded, captured in postcards for tourists; or they are as tired as the houses in which they hang from flaking walls. CONTINUOUS PATCHING UP For De Keyzer, travelling began with India (1987), followed by Homo Sovieticus. In that book (originally published as U.S.S.R. | 1989 | C.C.C.P. in Dutch), he portrayed the Soviet Union at a moment like the one Cuba is experiencing now: the collapse of Communism. In recent decades, he went looking for religious communities, travelled to the Eastern Bloc, the old Europe, Siberian prison camps, the former Belgian colony of the Congo. Everywhere, he portrays citizens waking up from ideological narcosis. De Keyzer: "Apparently, this is my thing: how systems invented by people in their theoretical delusions of grandeur fail to provide any room for humans as sentient beings." Cuba, la lucha is the title of his most recent book. Cuba, the struggle. The title itself already suggests multiple layers. "It is the outcry that refers to the struggle to keep Socialism alive. In the early nineties, when the Soviet Union disintegrated, everyone thought that Cuba would perish with it. For four years, people lived in true poverty." But the struggle is not over yet, as De Keyzer noticed all too often. "People are fed up. They negotiate between their love for the revolution and the fear of a drawn-out death struggle. Call it struggle as a synonym of the fire of life." He laughs: "La Lucha is also the name of a Cuban chain of DIY stores, by the way, where you can buy building materials and tools for renovation and repair." The history of the Cuban citizen as continuous patching up; man as a plasterer. Those are the big themes that De Keyzer offers with empathy and in the form of a question. The image of a throng in front of a door, as if waiting to enter a shrine to Fidel Castro, looks like a scene from a film. In fact they are extras from a historical film, waiting for their lunch outside a closed canteen. Or take the photo of a private boxing club: a man wearing an FBI t-shirt, and on the wall the famous Che Guevara portrait, taken by Magnum photographer René Burri in the early sixties. Times change. Cracks appear in the ceiling. There is only a window, open to the playful wind, with a view of the Museum of the Revolution. De Keyzer suggests. There is this image of two tourists sitting in a rocking chair outside a villa, like colonials. In front of them the postcards with old icons: "It is almost a view of the future." In his images, De Keyzer stops a merry-go-round. In one of his photos the woman who sits at the controls has fallen asleep. That is his cue to press the shutter. 'Cuba, la lucha' by Carl De Keyzer is published on 15 March 2016 by Lannoo, 176 p., € 49.99 Exhibition from 18 March until 15 May 2016 at the Roberto Polo Gallery, Lebeaustraat 8-12, Brussels,

  • Carl De Keyzer | Ramshackle Cuba, by Rosan Hollak | NRC Nederland



    Ramshackle Cuba PHOTOGRAPHY Carl De Keyzer records what a regime does to a country. In Havana, one or other house collapses every day; that is telling for Cuba. • by Rosan Hollak – Photo: Carl De Keyzer – translation: Raf Erzeel 10 March 2016 "I became quite restless when, at the end of 2014, President Obama announced that the U.S.A. and Cuba were to restore their relations. I wanted to go there immediately, but I had to wait for a visa." Belgian Magnum photographer Carl De Keyzer's impatience is logical. For years, he has been photographing the decay of political systems in different countries. In 1989, he published Homo Sovieticus, a photo book about the Soviet Union in the pre-Perestroika era. For his ambitious photo project Trinity (2008), he travelled all over the world for sixteen years, looking for the influence of politics on people. His photo book Congo (2009) showed the remains of the Belgian colonial past in present-day Congo. The photographer had set his heart on Cuba before, but the moment was ripe now. Early last year, he travelled throughout the island for three months, capturing the crumbling power of Communism in its cities, towns and villages. What he found can be seen in the exhibition Cuba, la lucha at the Roberto Polo Gallery in Brussels from next week onwards, and in the book with the same title that will also be published next week. I did not make a travel guide full of palm trees and beautiful old-timers. He explains that the title – 'the struggle' – refers to the Cubans' struggle for survival after the Berlin Wall came down in 1989. "When the Soviet Union imploded, Moscow cut off the flow of money and Havana missed out on a yearly $6 billion in subsidies. Back then, everyone expected the country to collapse – people had nothing, everyone was hungry – and yet the Cubans managed to survive. It was only after 1998, when Hugo Chávez became president of Venezuela and Castro received economic aid again, that the situation became less desperate." But 'la lucha' does not only refer to that struggle. "It has yet another meaning", says De Keyzer. "It is also the name of a chain of DIY stores in Cuba where people go in search of all kinds of materials to prevent their homes from collapsing." It is especially that way in which the degeneration of the Cuban political system has left its traces in architecture that De Keyzer wanted to record. "I did not make a travel guide full of palm trees and beautiful old-timers; I wanted to approach the country critically. Everything is still based on the pesos-economy. People earn little, and in Havana everything is propped up. Every day, some house or other collapses." A three-legged desk De Keyzer photographed the flaking, ramshackle buildings, the cheerless shops, and came across Communist practices that he recognised from the time he spent in the Soviet Union. As an example, he mentions the Comités de Defensa de la Revolución (CDR). "Those tiny offices that are supposed to check that everyone stays in line. You notice that Cubans still do not feel free to talk about certain things. Whenever I criticised Castro or Che Guevara, people lowered their gaze." Yet those committees are not very active. "Mostly, there are a few little old ladies sitting behind a three-legged desk. Everyone is tamely waiting for something to change. The real passion has long gone." And those changes are indeed coming quickly. "There are more small restaurants; people are allowed to put up tourists. That kind of economic freedom is increasing. But meanwhile, you still have to shell out dollars for a radio or a bottle of shampoo." The fact that an American president will visit the island – for the first time since 1928 – on 21 March, and the first Rolling Stones concert at the end of this month are really big events. "Yet I am afraid that, should the trade embargo really be lifted, an enormous gap between rich and poor will open up. It is already clear that plenty of business deals have been closed with Cuban-American entrepreneurs. Hotels of big chains are being plunked down on the beaches. 12,000 berths for yachts are being constructed in Varadero harbour." Even though he does not see it as his task to judge the situation in Cuba, it does not make him happy. "It was a bizarre thing for Communism ever to have been introduced on such a paradisiacal island. But I also fear for its future." As a photographer, he is, above all, an observer. "I am not a diplomat or a politician; I take pictures with several layers to be discovered. You see the history and the present situation, and hopefully those tell you something about this country." El Capitolio in Havana. Before the revolution, the government was housed in this building, modelled on the American Capitol in Washington D.C. Carl De Keyzer/Magnum Photos The exhibition runs from 18 March until 15 May at the Roberto Polo Gallery in Brussels. At the end of the year it can also be seen at the photo festival BredaPhoto. Cuba, la lucha by Carl De Keyzer Published by Lannoo, 176 p. €49.99

  • Carl De Keyzer | Through the Eyes of Magnum Photographer, by Joke Embre | Beeld Express



    Cuba Through the Eyes of Magnum Photographer Carl De Keyzer TEXT: JOKE EMBRECHTS [translation: Raf Erzeel] / PHOTOS: CARL DE KEYZER In 2015, Carl De Keyzer travelled to Cuba. This resulted in a new book and a large solo exhibition at the Roberto Polo Gallery in Brussels. The solo exhibition 'Cuba – La Lucha' contains around sixty works; this series – both documentary and conceptual, and created in 2015 – explores the change of Cuba's system. De Keyser went to Cuba and returned with unique images of a country in transition: Fidel Castro on a wall poster, with a T-shirt of a man in the same picture that reads 'FBI'; four Cubans withdrawing money in a bank, with Che Guevare watching from a portrait above their heads. In his latest project, Carl De Keyzer captures the duality of Cuba in pictures. The eye of the master sketches the portrait of a country still rooted in communism, but reaching out to the capitalist West. When Barack Obama visited Cuba and surprisingly extended a hand to the country, news photographers flooded the island, hurrying to capture images of what might well disappear. Not so Carl De Keyzer: he had visited Cuba earlier, stayed on and took more time. He saw that 'La Lucha', the struggle, is just continuing on so many levels. The struggle for survival, the struggle to preserve socialism, struggle as a synonym of the holy fire of life. His photos may conclude an era there, but not an entire life. And what better place to open the exhibition than the gallery of the renowned Cuban-American art dealer Roberto Polo, who has a weak spot for Belgian art? His life reads almost like a Hollywood film script: after Castro's revolution, he and his family left their native Cuba to settle in the United States. At the age of sixteen, Polo was already teaching painting and aesthetics at the respectable Corcoran School of Art in Washington D.C. Later on, he also started working as an artist and organised the exhibition 'Fashion as Fantasy', with works by, among others, Mapplethorpe and Warhol. Polo started to trade art and soon counted the New York elite among his customers. He moved to Paris and after a turbulent period eventually ended up in Brussels in 2007. 2011 saw the publication of 'The Eye', an impressive 688-page tome featuring 300 works from a selection of 7,000 pieces of art which he had bought over the previous 40 years. At the end of 2012 he opened the Roberto Polo Gallery, a gallery for modern and contemporary art. Carl De Keyzer (°1958) has been a member of the world-renowned Magnum photo agency, founded by Henri Cartier-Bresson, since 1994. As such, De Keyzer is one of the most important Belgian photographers today. He photographed what remains of Europe, he documented religion in America and captured the life in Siberian prison camps in Russia – that is how wide his scope is, how all-encompassing his world view, how important his photography. In his previous book 'Moments Before the Flood' (2012) he was already looking into the possible consequences of global warming. He also looked at Cuba before the entire world press became interested in the potential changes on the island. His photos are published and exhibited worldwide. His work is being treasured in, among others, the Victoria & Albert Museum in London, at the International Center of Photography Collection in New York and in the Bibliothèque nationale de France in Paris. Among the themes in his work are the permanent threat of decay in contemporary society and the impact of power on daily life. A sampling of his work can be found at . Carl De Keyzer also features in De Donkere Kamer De Donkere Kamer (DDK) [The Darkroom] focuses on present-day photography, during an all-evening programme with short interviews, presentations and topical discussion. Apart from those, special attention is given to interesting events and exhibitions. DDK is a successful Dutch initiative, organised four times a year, for photographers, image makers, students and anyone who is interested in present-day photography. [shutter speed], Kaat Celis's visual project agency, is now launching De Donkere Kamer internationally. Kaat Celis: "The strength and popularity of the formula lies in the variation and active participation of photographers and the public. A (nationally or internationally) well-known photographer is extensively interviewed about a new series or project. Apart from this, there is a mixture of different disciplines, from documentary to popular photography, from young to old. During the 'pitch your photography project' part, three young photographers can seek public sponsoring for their dream projects. The visitors pay an entrance fee and decide at the end of the evening how the total revenue is to be divided among the three photographers. The one who manages to get most of the money can not only enjoy the financial support, but is also invited to present the sponsored project at one of the following DKK events." Sluitertijd is bringing DKK to Belgium, with a first stop in Antwerp at 'Born in Antwerp' on 12 May. Photographers such as Carl De Keyzer, Kurt Stallaert, Jasper Leonard, Awoiska van der Molen and many others will be there to present their new projects. Celis: "Since December 2015, the city of Antwerp is putting the spotlights on its creative and cultural entrepreneurs. Under the heading 'Born in Antwerp - Harbour of Creativity' a unique headquarters is the stage for an ambitious programme with international events, expositions and interventions in the public space. Five eminent names from the creative world act as curators and ensure a varied programme. A warehouse at the Kattendijkdok-Oostkaai is the beating heart of the project and offers a sampling of what creativity means in Antwerp. There is room for creative events, performances, lectures and exhibitions, but it is also an open space for encounters, an inspiring place to work or to meet friends. And 'Born in Antwerp' also welcomes De Donkere Kamer. Afterwards, DDK will also visit 'Summer of Photography' at Bozar in Brussels on 23 June, before travelling on to the Guislain Museum in Ghent on 27 October and finally to Buda Kunstencentrum in Kortrijk.

  • Carl De Keyzer | 'Cuba, la lucha' | De Standaard



    Cuba, la lucha Barack Obama's impending visit to Cuba is to be the exclamation mark of a new start. But where will it lead? Magnum photographer Carl De Keyzer visited a country that is hovering between a complex past and an uncertain future. Religion, political systems and ideologies, mechanisms of repression: for over a quarter of a century, Magnum photographer Carl De Keyzer (°1958) has shown an extraordinary fascination with man and systems conceived by man, their evolution, impact and manifestations. For his most recent project, he travelled to one of the last Communist strongholds. At the end of 2014, Barack Obama announced the resumption of Cuban-American relations, which had been abruptly broken by the U.S. in early 1961. In a few weeks' time, Obama will seal the renewed relations with a state visit, the first by an American president since Calvin Coolidge in 1928. A new era has begun. But how will this work out in practice? Nobody knows at present. De Keyzer imagines: a blind man tapping his way across American and Cuban flags with his stick. Or the opening image of the book: from a dilapidated block of flats in Havana, we look out over the dome of El Capitolio, built during the late 1920s, imitating the American example, and until 1959, the seat of the Cuban government. Now it is covered in scaffolding. Ready to become the seat of power of a new democracy? Images of Che Guevara and Fidel Castro are still everywhere. On the wall of a room where two men are boxing wearily, from a rocking chair, an aged heavyweight looks on, wearing an FBI t-shirt. Fieles a sus ideas – loyal to their ideas – a poster on the wall states. But there is no punch left. De Keyzer named this project Cuba, la lucha – the struggle. This term, Cuba expert and curator, Gabriela Salgado, explains in the book, refers to a mentality that emerged in Cuba after the fall of the Berlin Wall. Due to the implosion of the Soviet Union, Havana missed out on a yearly $6 billion per year in subsidies. By 1993, the economy had shrunk by 5%. Ever since then, the struggle for decent living is on – la lucha. The book Cuba, la lucha has been co-published by Lannoo and Roberto Polo Gallery. The series is on show between 18 March and 15 May at the Roberto Polo Gallery in Brussels.



    United Kingdom


    6/13/2015 - 9/6/2015

    Rue Lebeau 8-12

  • CARL DE KEYZER | Moments before the flood

    5/29/2015 - 9/6/2015

    Galeria Atlas Sztuki, Piotrkowska 114/116


    Durres, Albania (Boat on Beach), 2011, archival pigment print on fine art paper mounted on DBond, 109 x 130 cm


    3/18/2016 - 5/15/2016

    Rue Lebeau 8-12

    From the series Cuba, la lucha, 2015, archival pigment print on fine art paper mounted on Dibond, 109 x 130 cm

  • Carl De Keyzer | DPR KOREA GRAND TOUR

    3/23/2018 - 5/19/2018

    Rue Lebeau 8-12

    DPR Korea Grand Tour , 2016, archival pigment print on fine art paper mounted on Dibond, 109 x 130 cm

  • Carl De Keyzer | Higher Ground

    3/2/2017 - 3/30/2017

    Le Botanique