La Habana Vieja

CUBA-10018 A World Heritage Site since 1982, Old Havana is a fascinating mix of Baroque, neoclassical monuments, Art Nouveau, and Art Deco architecture  interspersed with private homes decorated with balconies, wrought-iron gates, and  inside courtyards.


Havana was founded in 1519 by the Spanish, and  became an important harbor for Spanish galleons as they plied the seas  from the Old World to the New World.


The city suffered little damage in the country’s wars and revolutions, and stands today much as it was built 100 years ago except for  decay and neglect combined with damage from the degenerative effects of the tropical salt-air climate.  Hurricane Ike battered Havana in 2008 which caused extensive damage to some of the colonial buildings.




Cuba was a major importer of American cars until the Revolution in 1959, when many wealthy Cubans left the country and their cars behind.  To keep these ancient cars running for fifty years requires loving care and skill that would be difficult to find anywhere else.




_SM15545, Havana, Cuba, 2010, CUBA-10020








Eusebio  Leal, the city’s historian, has played a major role in preservation activities in Old  Havana. In 1994, Leal created Habaguanex,  a joint venture-for-profit-firm.  It operates by generating hard currency through tourism and related services in Habana Vieja and then uses these funds for historic preservation and the development of community projects.


I was in Cuba for only a week in 2010, and am looking forward to going back to capture many more people and places.


59 Responses to “La Habana Vieja”

  1. Roberto Alba Bustamante Says:

    Hello Steve, thank you for showcasing my hometown! Havana is a magical place and a great location for photography. The city is very, very photogenic. My personal favorite picture of yours was the one of the person running up the stairs – it had a magical quality, seeing someone in communist Cuba running up the stairs of what must have been a mansion left over from the island’s capitalist days.

    Here is to hoping that things change and that life over there becomes normal – so that we may all be able to travel freely back and forth!

  2. abdull Says:

    good work steve, espero algun dia conecer Cuba!

  3. inland empire gates…

    La Habana Vieja « Steve McCurry's Blog…

  4. Una vision fotografica muy distinta a lo habitual.saludos Steve

  5. […] Cuba. I’ve been there twice, and hope to go again (and again, and again). I came across these lovely photos on Steve McCurry’s blog, and it made me nostalgic for La Habana, the strong, beautiful people, […]

  6. Just wonderfull; after these images you don’t need words to describe La Habana Vieja.

  7. Im impressed, I must say. Very rarely do I come across a site that\

  8. sayar ahmad Says:


    whenever i visit to your blog every time my mouth remains open for hours and just gazing your shots !!!! hats off!

  9. Great photography Steve. I’ve been a fan of your images for quite some time now. I came across your blog just recently whilst researching for my first solo exhibit which happens to be on Cuba. If you’re in Los Angeles on March 5th would love to have you.


  10. great photo thanks

  11. thanks for this great photo

  12. […] telling example is his recent work in Cuba. Every photograph in that collection makes your eyes wander around the picture in an attempt to […]

  13. I did not expect anything less…you know how to stop the time exactly at the moment that is right to be !!!

  14. Chang Louise Says:

    Superb reportage in this country so beautiful, but so poor … pictures that speak, pictures that express everyday life in this atmosphere that is Cuba! Thank you for this testimony …..!!

  15. Says:

    me gusto mucho como capta esos espacios que tienen historia pues trasmiten emoción al ver las fotografias estan bonitas, espectaculares Steve McCurry

  16. Very nice images and some funny too. Some reminds me pictures made by Doisneau. It is also interesting how you took picture for a particular theme. The style speaks me…

    best regards,

    Jos Runarka

  17. Steve, As an admirer of your work for so long, these Cuba photos resonate within me.
    They are beautiful. I have been traveling to Cuba and photographing there since 1996 and have developed a passion for Cuba. I have “Cubanitis” some people call it a malady others call it a discovery of Cuba’s spirit. Be careful it could be contagious.
    Thank you for a wonderful fresh breath.
    Take a look:

  18. Hopefully one day I’ll get myself a foreign passport so that I can visit Cuba as well.

  19. Thank you, Mr. McCurry.
    God will enlighten and preserve its look.
    I also am a lover of photography and you have inspired me.
    Milton Ostetto

  20. You are a genious! I just started taking photos and you give me so much inspiration everyday, thank you so much Mr. McCurry.
    This is my blog and is about photos I take in Japan, feel free to visit please.



  21. Josh Bergeron Says:

    I’ve never been to Cuba, and the only real visual exploration I’ve experienced of Havana comes from David Alan Harvey’s work. It’s interesting to compare your work with his – you’re both members of Magnum, you both shoot in color, you both work on the street, and you both contribute to National Geographic, yet your images are very different and inspiring.

    Thank you for sharing this visual treat.

  22. Every time I feel a lull Sir, I look at your work for inspiration.
    These shots from Cuba are wonderful, Thank you for sharing them.


  23. Great shots as usual Steve. What month were you in Havana?
    I was there in November ’10 for a week. I wandered the streets of Old Habana and Centro with my camera and bagged a few shots too. You can see them here:

    Jonathan (your former student)

  24. a beautiful series but makes me profoundly sad for the people of Cuba and all of the suffering they’ve had to endure for so many years

  25. those photos are more than great.

  26. Fantastic collection Steve.
    It’s a shame we couldn’t have combined our trips to Cub as we planned all that time ago on your New York workshop..remember?!
    I went early last year and it certainly won’t be my last time in such a stunning country. Let me know if you plan a workshop out there!

  27. Hi Steve!

    I just discovered your blog looking for information about you online.
    I am a physiotherapist in Brazil, but my hobby is photography. I love it.
    And really love your work, you inspire me, because what I most like to photograph are people in everyday situations.

    And I was surprised when I saw this post on Havana. I’ve been there too, in January 2010. I made some pictures in the same places. Fotofrafei trumpeter in “El Malecon” but there was only one trumpet. Your photo has been several spectacular. And also photographed “La Habana Vieja,” and many old cars.

    But I was shocked by the country’s system. As much as we knew it was thus thought that the stories were exaggerated, but it is much WORSE than I thought or read about Cuba.

    I also visited “Cayo Largo, an island there, wonderful. I flew there on a plane super poor, the mosquitoes flew in, along with us, and the boarding pass was hand written. Surely if you were there, would have made great pictures.

    Well, it’s a pleasure to follow your blog. I hope you read my comment. If you want to write me, I can send you the pictures I took in Cuba. My email is

    Oh, and I also have a blog. But it is about pilates and healthy life. If you can follow me there would be an honor for me. The address of my blog is

    Happy 2011 to you.
    God bless.
    And make great pictures

  28. you take unbeliveble beautiful pictures! They are so inspirering, and the dream to one day take as beautiful pictures as you, follow me all the time!
    Thank you for the great inspiration!
    xox. Val

  29. Ana Inés Says:

    I love your pictures!

  30. un magnifique reportage , superbe travail ainsi que la justesse de la prise de vue !!!

  31. Beutiful, this is an unforgetable travel.

  32. Awesome pictures!!! Wow! Congrats from Mexico!!

  33. Preciosas fotografìas

    Sigo tu blog hace ya un tiempo y eres uno de mis fotògrafos preferidos. Tus imàgenes son de una sinceridad y profundidad que pocos fotògrafos logran plasmar.


  34. Wonderfully atmospheric images of a location that’s certianly on my list.

  35. Nice beaches and buildings are in lots of places, but only in Cuba will you find people like those — lovely, warm, genuine.

  36. Jeff Silber Says:


  37. Says:

    Wonderful images!!! Thank you Steve

  38. islandmomma Life on a Small Island and Beyond Says:

    Wonderful, especially the last one. I couldn’t take my eyes off her for ages and ages.

  39. Thank you for this fascinating glimpse into Cuba. I had no idea how interesting Havana is!

    And finding your blog has been the best part of the New Year so far!😀

  40. Hi Steve and congratulations for your pictures. Always a pleasure when you post them. Where you thinking about a picture by Doisneau when you saw this old woman walking in the street in front of the mouth-opened monster ?
    I immediatly thought about it :×576/0/14/43/17/petits-projets/atc-113-116-doisneau.jpg😉

  41. Great pictures, Steve.
    Cuba will change soon… it is hard to live “outside” of our globalizing world…
    Same question: do you always ask to sign a release form ?

  42. Thanks for sharing, Steve!

  43. Genijalno… Perfect photos, beautifully captured moments. thank you for this.

  44. Guillermo Torres Says:

    Lovely work.

  45. how strange. I’ve been on the verge of booking a flight to Havana for weeks. Ended in Cebu city instead. Great shots from you as usual though. Always a pleasure to view😉

  46. Anonymous Says:

    Steve this is (again) amazing images.Although it’s only a few images, you capture it in such a way that I can “feel” the place. You are soooooo good!!!

  47. albert erickson Says:

    I love the colors in Cuba. I hope to be able to travel there someday when it gets a little easier, and before it changes to just another resort island. Good work Steve. You are one of my personal favorites. Eric

  48. Visited another world heritage city with you …:)

    Thanks for sharing


  49. Sos un genio McCurry! me encantan tus fotos. Un abrazo desde Argentina.

  50. Beautiful work. I’ve always wondered what someone of your calibre could do in only one week of photographing. Amazing!

  51. You’ve really captured the essence of what is a city that is both vibrant and laid back at the same time..Wonderful work

  52. you are great!!! I love your work…I love your eyes.
    have a nice new day, Steve.

  53. Thank you for sharing these colorful and compelling images of Cuba. It’s on my list to one day visit. Would be thrilled if the Obama Administration would finally lift the ban on Americans traveling to Cuba.

  54. I think one of the reasons why we enjoy photographing in Cuba so much (and I do myself, see or is that we assume life there is more ‘authentic’ and less ‘commercialized’ than it is in Western countries. On my travels of the country I learned that this is not necessarily the case and there is in fact a certain materialism even among Cubans – but it feels very different from what we are used. Definitely worth exploring.

  55. Superb images as always. Any suggestions on how legally a US citizen may visit Cuba for photography?

  56. Andrea C Says:

    I believe that one of the (many, many) reasons that these images are so wonderful is the way they feature both the architecture AND the people at the same time.

    It’s easy to take a photo of a crumbling building, but catching a man doing pull-ups on the same building makes the photo much more interesting. It seems like such a basic concept, but I think it’s hard to put into practice.

    I’m curious to hear the answer to Mike’s question, and I’d like to ask as well: what’s your strategy for approaching people you’d like to photograph? Do you ask everyone to sign a release form?

  57. Great images in a Country with a lot of changes.

  58. fantastic work
    i remember ol’havana very good.
    as a decor it should never change

  59. mike nothum Says:

    Wonderful images Steve! I hope to be visiting Cuba this fall as a part of a Project Cure team (distributing medical supplies). Are there any issues or problems in shooting images in public places?

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