In Conversation with Cuba's Talented Photographer: Ramon Iglesias
Our guest today is Ramon Iglesias, born and raised in Palma Soriano, Santiago de Cuba, the birthplace of his favourite Rum [Ramon points to a bottle of Rum Santiago de Cuba in front of him]. He moved to Havana when he was a young man and by the time the first Habanos Festival took place (1998) he entered the world of Tobacco Photography by being hired by Habanos to photograph the events around the Festival. Before this, he was a photographer of different subjects, but mainly Social Photography. Ramon has also been in the Cuban Army and spent two years in Angola [perhaps the subject of another article]. His passion for Cuban Cigars, lay dormant inside him, until his first attendance of the Habanos Festival in 1998, when suddenly it became something he put all of his time and effort into, with so much to show for it.
“I always saw Cigars as a product for distinguished people, a very high quality product, and the fact that I was now working in the industry was what made me want to try it. I don’t smoke every day now but I really do appreciate a good cigar after a nice dinner or in the moments of celebration.”
Ramon, you have attended many Festivals, do you have one that is particularly memorable?
All of the Habanos Festivals have been important to me. Perhaps the first ones in particular because I was learning a lot about the product but also because I had the opportunity to see some incredible personalities such as Fidel Castro, Compay Segundo and Alejandro Robaina. For me these festivals were exceptional as they were graced by the presence of personalities that would leave their mark in the history of humanity for one way or another.
What do you like to capture, in your photography, about the world of Tobacco?
A cigar is something very special in that it is something that burns while being enjoyed. This, in turn, causes to things to happen: flavour and smoke.
Flavour, the enjoyment and perception of it in those who smoke is a wonderful thing to capture in photography. Smoke, which Jose Martì accurately defined as “the architect of air”. Each puff, each mouthful of this beautiful smoke is unique and unrepeatable. Over the years I have been capturing people smoking and some of these images of smoke that I taken have been truly incredible.
Could you describe your photography style?
I don’t have a particular style nowadays. As I mentioned before, I started as a Social Photographer where I worked in photographic studios and we put a lot of emphasis on nude photography. But we also focused on Tobacco fields photography, which I still absolutely adore. I find so much beauty in tobacco fields. You see, tobacco growing is still done pretty much as it was done hundreds of years ago. For a number of reasons, it is a process that cannot be mechanised and required lots and lots of different manual procedures. You can imagine what this translates to in terms of photography. It’s a beautiful contrast with the modern world.
What is it that you like the most about living in Cuba?
I love the climate. I love the way in which the Cuban people behave in general. Our solidarity among us as well as towards those who come and visit our beautiful island. Also, I love Cuban women... haha… I find them beautiful. I love our tobacco, my family. You could say I have it all there. Whenever I travel I love to meet my friends around the world and visit new countries, however, within a few days I start missing my beloved Cuba.
Do you think the tobacco industry will change much in the future?
Everything changes. What we used to do as kids is no longer relevant to new generations and things are changing even faster nowadays.
Tobacco is for smoking. For quite a few years now we have seen the rise of a huge anti-smoking campaign all over the world. I guess that the quality of tobacco used in Cuban Cigars as well as the appreciation of its history and cultural relevance, have made it possible for this product to continue to thrive. Cuban Cigars will always have a market because of its intrinsic and undeniable quality. A Cuban writer, who’s name I now forget, wrote that one day the world will stop smoking. On that day, the last smoke on earth, will be a Cuban Cigar [Ramon smiles].
Thank you Ramon. Lastly, what’s your favourite Cigar?
Ramon Iglesias was full of beautiful and inspiring stories of Cuba, its culture and the life that he has there, a true advocate for the country, his passion and love for it has got us all itching to go back. In fact, Ramon personally invites all of our readers to visit Cuba, so that you can experience first hand how hospitable, friendly and convivial Cuban people are.
Watch the full interview below:
You can buy cigars online with us, including Ramon's favourite Epicure No.2. Shop the full collection online now.