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2019 SPE Annual Conference: The Myths of Photography and the American Dream / Major support by The Joy Family Legacy Foundation

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David Litschel

SPE Member since 2016
Member Chapter: West


My travel and stock photography work falls in the category of street photography. I study a country’s culture through the research before traveling to a location. For the past five straight years my interest and emphasis has been on Latin American countries: Bolivia, Cuba (twice), Ecuador, Guatemala, and Paraguay. In addition, I have been immersing myself in the Spanish language to better communicate and understand what I am experiencing as I walk the streets. People are my main interest and generally I like catching them quickly and mostly without notice of my presence or without approval ahead of time. It is my belief that by accumulating a large body of work of many people native to the country I am visiting I can create a slice (or perhaps, sliver) of understanding of the overall sense of the country. I have always been inspired by the work of the German photographer August Sander, specifically his portrait work in his People of the 20th Century project with a goal to document a cross-section of the Weimar Republic. I have also been influenced by the street photography of Garry Winogrand, and the cultural investigation of America by Robert Frank. My work, although differing from each of the above, reflects some influence of each of them. My aim is broad-based within each country/culture without divisions due to class, gender, or ethnicity. When in country, my days are spent walking in search of images. For that reason, I travel light and carry very compact gear and a good pair of shoes. I enjoy engaging with people from other cultures but generally do that when I am not photographing or after I have take images I want. I do an extensive amount of walking/seeing/shooting which creates a tremendous amount of unpacking of the images once home. The editing process for me results in further research and provides a rich learning experience for me even after all the shooting is complete.


Americans think of Cuba as the land of 1950’s cars, rum and cigars. Although that is true, there is much more to the island nation that is being rediscovered by many Americans due to the relaxation of relations between the two countries.

The Cuban people are warm and welcoming big-hearted people making the most with little to nothing. I made many friends in my visits to Cuba and manage to keep in touch with some of them via the Internet even with the limitations on the average person’s access to email.

Because of burdens of life there, average pay being the equivalent of 20-25 dollars per month and even with a government issued ration card it does not provide enough to get through a month, the Cubans work together to help each other and make ends meet. They barter with each other to provide needed items. Out of these conditions they have become an incredibly resourceful people. Many of the 1950’s American cars that are on the streets have Soviet built automobile engines due to a shortage of American car parts and the Soviet presence on the island for so many years. The Cubans were years ahead of the concept of Uber and Lift where the average pedestrian can catch a ride with just about any car on the street - this is common practice.

Music is a strong part of life in Cuba. The eastern end of the island around Santiago de Cuba is considered the hub of the Son and Salsa music. Tourists will find music just about everywhere in Cuba, in the streets, in the bars and restaurants day and night.

Although Cuba was officially declared an atheist state by Fidel Castro shortly after the revolution the country has many churches and perhaps more active is the Afro-Cuban Santeria religion brought from Africa that has incorporated parts of Catholicism.

The literacy rate in Cuba is higher than the USA, 97.7% compared with 97%. Healthcare is free and medical doctors and nurses are one of Cuba’s largest exports.

Housing is limited and many families have to make room for another family in their house when a son or daughter gets married, as there is little to no new housing being built in Cuba.

The Cuban national sport is baseball, not soccer like the rest of Latin America, and boxing is in second place. The Cubans are passionate fans of baseball and if you want to truly experience the Cuban joie de vivre you must attend a Cuban baseball game.

David Litschel

Up and coming boxer

Blue Wall, Santiago de Cuba

Female runners stretching

Cuban Body Builder

Cuban Male Dancer

Outside stairs, Santiago de Cuba

Boatman at Sunrise

Baseball Family

Boat Repair

Boxing Coach

Cuban Boxer

A young Cuban boy looks out the window

Cuban butcher

Cuban butcher

Pig delivery

Candy vendor


Coco frio

Conga drum

Dressed to the nines

Cuban dandy

Cuban driver

1951 Chevy

Young school girl

Young Cuban beauty and dog

Female Cuban dancer

Model on the Malecon

Female Cuban produce vendor

Garlic and bird vendor

Garlic vendor

Street pastry vendor

Happy group of friends

Tourist jumping

Guitar player

Outside hair salon


Cuban gesture

Jewelry store owner

Lighthouse keeper

Cuban painter in window

Bath in Havana harbor

Cigar smoker Viñales

Pouring coffee beans

Afro-Cuban man

Man in doorway

Pedicab at sunset

Resting pedicab driver

Pedicab and colorful mural

Pedicab and kids

Plantain delivery man

Man in red


Strangely decorated house

























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