Tuesday, November 21, 2017
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Photo exhibit reveals haunting, beautiful Cuba

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Mario Algaze's story is a familiar one in the history of Cuban immigration to the United States. He was born in Cuba in 1947 but left with his family in 1960 after the revolution and struggled to find a new sense of identity. A self-taught photographer, he became successful covering popular culture, especially music, with portraits of rock stars such as Mick Jagger and Bruce Springsteen.

He switched gears in 1974, deciding to chronicle life in Latin American countries, which brought him a second round of success. When he was finally able to return to Cuba in 1999, he already had an impressive portfolio that blurred the line between photojournalism and pictorial photography, but those from his Cuban sojourn are especially evocative and probably those closest to his heart.

A collection of them is on view at the Florida Museum of Photographic Arts, 400 N Ashley Drive, Tampa. They have an of-the-moment quality made famous by Henri Cartier-Bresson. (And it's so timely that an exhibition of his work is a short walk across Curtis Hixon Waterfront Park at the Tampa Museum of Art, encouraging cross-references.)

Algaze's black-and-white images seem more personal and haunting as he captures a Cuba that in many ways is a place looking like a long-lost past, peopled with individuals who are very much in the here and now.

The life he shows is clearly challenging — a small market with nearly bare shelves, old cars and careworn men and women — but he finds beauty, too.

See Cuba 1999-2000: Photographs by Mario Algaze through Jan. 6. Hours are 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday with extended hours to 8 p.m. Friday, and noon to 5 p.m. Sunday. $10. fmopa.org or (813) 221-2222.

Lennie Bennett, Times art critic

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