Havana is as fantastic a backdrop for glamour and sensual fine-art nude photography as exists in this world, given its mixture of Spanish colonial and faded baroque architecture, its wealth of 1950s American cars, and its stimulating aura of exoticism. To which add Cuba’s stunningly beautiful women, and their joyous at-ease delight in being photographed and in expressing their sensuality. No wonder top glamour photographers from around the world have in recent years used it for their magazine, calendar, and lingerie catalog shoots.

WELL-KNOWN GLAMOUR PHOTOGRAPHERS WHO HAVE SHOT IN HAVANA

From top celebrity photographer Annie Leibovitz, plus glamour photographers Steven Lyon and David Arnal to Ruslan Lobanov, Joan Alsina, Formento + Formento, and Andrey Razoomovsky (known for his erotically-charged, surreal imagery), an increasing number of world-class photographers have been building a creative portfolio of fine-art nude and implied nude and glamour images in Cuba, paving the way for greater acceptability of erotic and nude photography as artistic genres on the island.

Part of Spanish celebrity photographer Joan Alsina’s ‘Cuba Perfekta’ series

Ukranian photographer Ruslan Lobanov trademark is to employ topless models to create a restrained eroticism

Russian photographer Andrey Razoomovsky’s images evoke a surreal, often baroque, eroticism

CUBA’S STATE SENSITIVITIES TO NUDE PHOTOGRAPHY

Although Cuba has an advanced avant-garde–and overtly erotic–art scene, the Cuban government is highly sensitive about nude photography and equally restrictive about what is permissible, particularly by foreign photographers. It has a zero tolerance policy regarding pornography, which it defines far more broadly than North American and European standards. As Cuban photographer Claudia Corral Mesa says: “It is always a thin line between nude and porn [in Cuba].”

In fact, the Cuban government is so politically sensitive that Formento + Formento (while shooting for their darkly stark coffee-table book, She is Cuba) were detained by the police and had to smuggle out their images; perhaps because their shoot of a nude model clearly pleasuring herself next to an image of Che Guevara (below) would surely have been considered over the line…

Yes, Che was a photographer, but I doubt whether he’d approve of Formento + Formento’s none-too-subtle allusion to hero worship taken to a logical climax

CUBAN PHOTOGRAPHERS WORKING WITH GLAMOUR AND FINE-ART NUDE GENRES

Nonetheless, the artistic space is developing, much thanks to Cuba’s own accomplished photographers, such as Izuky Pérez, Ramses Batista, and highly-accomplished German-born Havana resident Sven Creutzmann, all of who are pushing the boundaries and experimenting more confidently with erotic, artistic nude photography. Meanwhile, Luis Joa and Gabriel Dávaros are known for specializing in nude and implied nude photography of ballerinas of Cuba’s acclaimed Ballet Nacional. Perhaps as importantly, these photographers have brought their work into public venues, including the streets of Habana Vieja and other iconic spaces throughout the city.

Izuky Perez is at the forefront of Cuba photographers working in the fine-art nude genre

Sven Creutzmann’s masterful sets include this image for the Lambertz calendar in Christopher P. Baker’s favorite mansion in Havana (see below)

Although Ramses Batista also works with nude photography, he is best known for photographing ballerinas

CUBAN MODELS’ SELF-CONFIDENT PRIDE IN EXPRESSING THEIR SENSUALITY, INCLUDING TOP BALLERINAS

Although many world-renowned photographers choose to bring their own models from Europe or North America, Cuban models and top ballerinas are equal in beauty and confidence as any. Throughout my ‘Sensual Havana: Glamour & Fine-Art Nude Photo Workshop & Tour‘ (December 15-22, 2021), our respectful and elegant treatment of the subject pays tribute to all that is positive about the Cuban Revolution and its advancement of women’s rights and self-determination, while also honoring Cuban models’ unashamedly and affirmatively self-confident pride in expressing their sensuality.

Cuban photographer Gabriel Dávalos has exhibited his images of ballerinas, including nude, to acclaim throughout Cuba

Luis Joa demonstrates tremendous respect for ballerinas in his artistic expression

In fact, Cuba’s amazingly accomplished and sensual ballerinas have become popular models for many visiting photographers. We’ve selected from among the most beautiful, including several who have expressed their willingness to model nude or for implied nude photography, typified by the tremendous image below by Spanish photographer Juan Pablo Zapata. However, please note that our priority on ‘Sensual Havana: Glamour and Fine-Art Nudes‘ tour will be sensuality and respectful artistic expression, not nudity for it’s own sake, and especially so with our ballerinas.

Top ballerina Maylin Hernández tip-toes through Habana Vieja; photo by Juan Pablo Zapata

ANNIE LIEBOVITZ, RHIANNA, AND THAT FABULOUS HAVANA MANSION!

In 2015, Annie Leibovitz famously photographed Rhianna nude in Havana (see below) for Vanity Fair. This mansion, with its pre-revolutionary décor and furnishings (right down to the telephone) is renowned as the perfect venue for glamour and fine-art nude photography. Virtually any photographer worth his or her salt ends up shooting here, and for good reason! 

Rihanna nude in a Havana mansion for Vanity Fair, by Annie Leibovitz

Even showgirls from Havana’s world-famous Tropicana cabaret find themselves modeling in this fantastic mansion!

Katinka Herbert‘s wonderful image of Joana, a Tropicana dancer, with her grandmother

We’ll use the same house and bedrooms, among other venues, for our own sensual and artistic nude photography with Cuba’s glamorous models and ballerinas. While we’ll express our own vision and creativity, our photo shoots will also be inspired by those photographers who’ve used this mansion so creatively before us, such as Steven Lyon (below).

U.S. photographer (and top male model) Steven Lyon’s style of glamour photography charges his images with sensuality, as here in a shoot for a lingerie company

And Lyon definitely pushed the envelope as far as Cuban limits permit with this steamy video of his models nude in the same house…

LA GUARIDA, THE BEACH, CLASSIC CARS AND OTHER QUINTESSENTIAL PROPS AND VENUES

Meanwhile, there are a few other quintessential venues that have become de rigueur for glamour photo shoots. The first is La Guarida, Cuba’s most famous and in-demand private restaurant. Its tumbledown tenement setting and bare-breasted marble statues are out of this world. We’ll use it, of course, on our ‘Sensual Havana: Glamour and Fine-Art Nudes Photo Workshop & Tour.’

The tenement housing La Guarida is the perfect venue for glamour photography, as with Yan McCline‘s topless model (right) echoing the pose of a statue

On all my Cuba photo tours, I also make time to photograph in my favorite boxing gym. Many top photographers do the same, and it’s amazing how many famous international models have been photographed faux-boxing in lingerie alongside sweating boxers! Here’s Steve Lyon again showing one example of strongly suggestive sensuality juxtaposed with raw powerful energy…

Then there’s the beach, of course. And in case you think that sensual photography is an all male affair in Cuba, far from it. We’ll work with two leading Cuban female photographers specializing in glamour and sensual photography, including Titina Style, who is as accomplished a videographer as she is a superb glamour and fashion stills photographer…

Meanwhile, the work of young photographer Monica Moltó, who shoots frequently for Cris-Cris Habana lingerie, exemplifies the more restrained imagery of female glamour photographers in general…

Monica Moltó has a tastefully refined eye for sensually evocative composition

And lastly, what would sensual photography in Cuba be without the cars? The genre ranges from the simply glamorous (such as Gabor Jurina‘s model reclining; top left) and suggestive (Formeto + Formento; bottom right) to the clichéd topless model (Izuky Pérez; bottom left) and the overt (such as Kristian Liebrand‘s image for the 2015 Rheinol calendar; -top right).

LIebrand’s calendar most certainly had to be shot surreptitiously, as I can’t conceive of it having either been authorized or permissible so publicly, as the statement about “three minutes per photo set” hints at in the video of the shoot…

Please join me this winter as we shoot Cuba’s top models and ballerinas…

Cuba Photo Tour & Workshop
Sensual Havana – Glamour & Fine Art Nudes
December 15-22, 2021 

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Christopher P Baker

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Christopher P. Baker, one of the world's most multi-talented and successful travel writers and photographers has been named by National Geographic as one of the world's foremost authorities on Cuba travel and culture. Winner of the Lowell Thomas Award 2008 as 'Travel Journalist of the Year,' he has authored more than 30 books, leads tours for National Geographic Expeditions, Edelwiss Bike Travel, and Jim Cline Photo Tours, among other companies, and is a Getty Images and National Geographic contributing photographer.