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Roberto Pietro Pezzolati: Cuba Cars

Hasta la vista para siempre?


Tog­e­ther with his wife Lore­na he’s recent­ly been run­ning a B&B in the idyl­lic port city of Cese­na­ti­co during the sum­mer. For both of them, the busi­ness repres­ents the necessa­ry balan­ce after years working for inter­na­tio­nal brands in the USA. During their count­less trips, they got to know many hotels all over the world: now it’s time for their small oasis to shine.

Their lovely hos­pi­ta­li­ty takes cent­re sta­ge and you can see it’s a pas­si­on for both of them. Howe­ver, that doesn’t mean Rober­to has tur­ned his back on pho­to­gra­phy. Far from it. Now he can final­ly car­ry out his per­so­nal pho­to­shoots as an artist and for­get the ‘com­mer­cial’ look he stri­ved for in the pre­vious years. Rober­to spends his win­ters on Cuba and has cap­tu­red some impres­si­ve shots. We tal­ked about his cur­rent pho­to seri­es Cuba Cars with him.

When did your pas­si­on for 1950s cars begin?

When I was a young boy. Like most of my peers, I grew up with a strong input and influ­ence from Ame­ri­can cul­tu­re. Tele­vi­si­on was only new back then and I would watch movies and tv-shows from over­seas with exci­te­ment. Even comic books play­ed their fair part, the big colour­ful cars of their main cha­rac­ters as much as the ones of movie stars. They were secu­red in my mind, igni­t­ing my ima­gi­na­ti­on, evo­king a sen­se of free­dom and power. The­re was also the music… Elvis Pres­ley, Ame­ri­can Graf­fi­ti, etc. All of the­se things com­bi­ned left me with a per­fect and may­be a litt­le sur­re­al image of a far away land I would sim­ply have to visit one day. I dreamt and desi­red to see and dri­ve tho­se beau­ti­ful cars with their soft, sen­su­al sil­hou­et­tes. So as soon as I had the pos­si­bi­li­ty, I took off for my first visit to the United Sta­tes. It was a won­der­ful trip but it was also some­what a small disappointment.

How come?

I went to Ame­ri­ca for the first time in 1982 and tho­se cars I so lon­ged to see sim­ply weren‘t around any­mo­re, if not in muse­ums and gal­le­ries dedi­ca­ted to vin­ta­ge vehi­cles. Obvious­ly I half expec­ted this. What we would see of the United Sta­tes on tele­vi­si­on in the 80‘s was dif­fe­rent com­pa­red to when I was a young boy. The shapes of the cars had beco­me strai­gh­ter and har­der, they no lon­ger had the win­ged cur­ves I was so attrac­ted to. The Cali­for­nia high­ways and the Los Ange­les bou­le­vards were still wide and trans­mit­ting an immense sen­se of free­dom, but my young boy‘s dream of dri­ving down them in a beau­ti­ful 50‘s car was no lon­ger achievable.

So then what?

Well, when you belie­ve in your dreams, soo­ner or later, in one way or ano­t­her, they will come true… and mine did about 25 years later as soon as I arri­ved (again for the first time in a new con­ti­nent) in Cuba! I couldn‘t belie­ve my eyes: Che­vro­let, Buick, Ford and others, all models from the 1950‘s. Real, loud and chro­med. Some were adjus­ted and patched up a litt­le rough­ly and let out a lot of smo­ke, but they func­tion­ed nevertheless. It was as if time had wai­ted, as if it had slo­wed down as much as pos­si­ble to allow me to ful­fil my dream. Along with the cars, objects, archi­tec­tu­re and other traces of the 1950‘s were visi­ble ever­y­whe­re, a litt­le worn-out and con­su­med by the deca­des but perhaps for this rea­son, all the more fasci­na­ting. I felt immedia­te­ly attrac­ted to what I saw, this coun­try see­med sus­pen­ded in a time lim­bo, so I star­ted taking pho­to­graphs. After see­ing how the pic­tures tur­ned out, I deci­ded I would return to docu­ment fur­ther what has now beco­me one of the most ico­nic aspects of Cuba.

So are all the pic­tures we find in this seri­es recent?

Some are from 2008 but most are from 2016, when I went back, eager to take more pic­tures, this time making sure I would cap­tu­re the cars wit­hin the island‘s archi­tec­tu­ral con­text. I tra­vel­led from East to West, making sure to also pho­to­graph the peop­le thanks to whom the­se vehi­cles still live and func­tion. It‘s incredi­ble how they get by with just a few tools and in not so favoura­ble situa­tions (on the­se streets, in car parks and insi­de old sheds) and still mana­ge to make them work! I think the­se cars repre­sent a con­nec­tion bet­ween the past, the pre­sent and the future. They‘re not just a part of histo­ry, they are not just a memo­ry. They are a pre­sent emo­ti­on capa­ble of brin­ging back a part of life we had con­si­de­red lost. They are some­thing that goes far bey­ond com­pu­ters, smart­pho­nes and all the alie­na­ting modern tech­no­lo­gy we have grown so used to. Their win­ged sen­su­al shapes that I men­tio­ned befo­re, along with their loud engi­nes form in our ima­gi­na­ti­on a free high­way from the 1950‘s, toward­sa timeless future.


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