My Second Family

I think nothing is as inspiring for your creative development as a personal long term project. By working with one subject over time you get to know your subject in quite a different way and find new ways to express your vision. In addition when working with people – as I mostly do, you develop a relationship over time that is invaluable when it comes to access. People you photograph relax and are able to behave as themselves when they get to know you. It comes down to trust, interaction, understanding and eventually friendship. Part of the deal with a personal long term project is personal. By photographing – as it is in my case – without an editor telling me what he or she wants, by no restricting conditions, by having complete freedom, you are able to work from your heart and let your spirit in the moment bring you to new places which usually is not possible when for instance you are doing an assignment.

Since 1991 I have been visiting Cuba on a regular basis – mostly every year, although more like every second year the last couple of years. I have found my personal long term project in the agricultural area of Viñales in Western Cuba. There I have gotten to know a family who’s farm is overlooking a small lake and the so-called mogotes – limestone rocks – which are very characteristic for Viñales. The family farms the land and live a very simple life. They are poor, but are able to sustain themselves, and in many ways they are richer in spirit than many other people I know. I have seen people at the farm grow up, marry, get children – and die. They have become like a second family to me, and I am always welcome to stay at the farm at any time. I bring my camera and myself, and then just spend time with the family. And every year I bring photos from the previous year. They always cause laughter and enjoyment among the family members. Visiting the family in Viñales has been a great experience for me, both on a personal level as well as photographically. My personal long term project. This year I plan to go back in September – and I really look forward visiting my family again.

The last picture of this series is the first I ever took of any of the family members.

On a different note, I would like to apologise for not having been able to visit your blogs and comment any of your posts the last month or so. It’s just been a very busy time for me with a lot of travelling. All the more I appreciate your patience and willingness to comment my posts. I intend to catch up during the summer time, when work will cease to be as busy as it has been lately.


About Otto von Münchow

Photographer based in Norway
This entry was posted in Creativity, Personal Work, Photography, Travel Photography, Work In Progress and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink.

71 Responses to My Second Family

  1. Michele LMS says:

    Remarkable photos! . . . You really capture the souls and way of life of these wonderful people!

  2. Chillbrook says:

    Fabulous photos Otto!

  3. Michelle Gillies says:

    What a wonderful story these photos tell. You can see in their eyes and smiles that you are family and they trust you. I don’t believe that is there in that first picture (the last one in the post). Thanks for sharing your other family with us.

  4. You transported all of us to Cuba, where we accepted these beautiful souls as family as well!
    I agree totally with your statement, ” …and in many ways they are richer in spirit than many other people I know..” – as Thoreau stated, “less is more.’
    Thank you for sharing! Z

  5. gilmarcil says:

    Quite an interesting series…

  6. cocomino says:

    They are really impressive photos.

  7. Michele LMS says it all. Wonderful photos and one can see how you feel about these people by the very depth you expose in their character.
    A very impressive series of photos indeed. These are the best images I’ve seen on your site since I started following your blog.

  8. Stunning photos. They are full of character, ease and warmth. As is your post.

  9. rrosen1 says:

    As always very informing. I can’t agree more. Personal contact allows subjects to open up. Before you know it you have a relationship building.

  10. rrosen1 says:

    Reblogged this on AppleLedge Photography and commented:
    Always the ambassador.

  11. Pingback: My Second Family | Münchow's Creative Photo Blog

  12. fgassette says:

    A wonderful selections of photos beautifully showing their depth of character and spirit.


  13. I always enjoy your posts and write-ups Otto but this one really is special. The images & portraits are outstanding and it’s very clear tha thtese individuals trust you and have opened up to you. Outstanding.

  14. Victor Ho says:

    Great story and great images.

  15. mcolmo says:

    Those are wonderful photos from our neighbor island. It’s sad to see how poor they are, but yes, they are happy with what they have.

  16. Amazing portraits 🙂

  17. Pingback: My Second Family | Münchow's Creative Photo Blog

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  19. dearrosie says:

    Your posts always inspire and teach, and this one illustrates your message without needing words. You’re fortunate that you’ve been able to go back to Cuba so often. My favorite of these photos is the horse leading the man through the river…

  20. These are good photos, it’s a pleasure to look at them. We can really see how you are deeply related top them. To have deep connections, deep relations is good specially in our today’s world. And yes, it’s the key to good photographs. Thanks for showing and reminding us.

  21. Beautiful photographs. The level of poverty is very sad. But if they are a close happy family then that makes things better. I have never any photos of Cuba other than the city so this was very interesting.

  22. niasunset says:

    I felt same with all others too… you carried me into these beautiful people’s world. Thank you dear Otto, love, nia

  23. Wonderful commentary on personal projects…no much is more satisfying…love the portraits and your courage in using a wide angle on people…inspiring!

  24. Geoff says:

    Otto, your feelings and love for these people shines from your photographs of them. I can see they love you back.
    Very impressive.

  25. Hutch says:

    Nice work, love the photos, very expressive, good stuff.

  26. Sunshine says:

    A beautiful and full of love post that shines through the photos and your words. Like they are your second family, you and other blog pals are like a second family as we share in each other’s journeys, dreams, heartaches and just about whatever comes up in our lives…
    Peace be with you, Otto. 🙂

  27. Very good photos. Veldig bra bilder, Otto!

  28. The poorest people are sometimes the happiest.

  29. Angeline M says:

    How wonderful to have this second family, to stay with them and to really get to know them.

  30. fabrizio says:

    is not easy to get into these realities of life, but in this post shows the normal natural everyday situations of extraordinary people in their simplicity

  31. fotonita says:

    Fantastisk nydelige bilder!
    Ønsker deg gode sommerdager! : )

  32. I had no idea you’d been traveling to Cuba for so many years, Otto. That is quite amazing to me. Sometime if it feels worth your time I’d love to hear more about what “called” you to that project in the first place. What was the inspiration? It must be a very beautiful country, and I’m so delighted to see photos of the wonderfully friendly people. As an American, I must say that I’m very bothered by our “position” on relationship with Cuba. We are nothing if not inconsistent! I’ll stay away from politics but say that somewhere in my lifetime I hope we open up and perhaps have the opporttunity to exchange with these lovely people. As for not keeping up with blogs…it’s seemed evident to me that you were traveling and up to your ears in creativity! 🙂 Debra

  33. likeitiz says:

    Wonderful pictures of such a different world from the one I know. Thank you, Otto. On looking at the pictures, I wonder what these people’s day to day is like. What makes them happy? What do they do when the sun sets or on a Sunday morning? What music do they play and sing? Lots of questions.

  34. CherryPie says:

    Lovey photos, they really give a feel for the place 🙂

  35. Truels says:

    I am full of admiration for this lifetime “new family” project. One can clearly see in all these great photos, how much you mean to each other, you and your Cuban family.
    This is something we all should do in one form or another, when we travel and photograph.
    I will not forget these photos – nor your inspiration!
    (Incidentally, I was also in Cuba – and in Vinales – in 2004)

  36. A.Barlow says:

    These are absolutely stunning images my friend. Very good. The people just seem so alive. There is a reason why things are called the “trappings” of modern civility…

  37. excellent photos! I feel like i am looking through a beautiful coffee table book at a life not so far away from where I live. Thank you for sharing!

  38. aFrankAngle says:

    Interestingly … the title and the pics captured your words well … very well!

  39. Robin says:

    Beautiful series of images. 🙂

  40. starlaschat says:

    I’m glad you are so busy. Make hay while the sun shines is what I like to say. When I first started to look at these photos what came to my mind was Wow So much Heart. I’m glad you have people even far away that you can say is a second family. Today I was wishing I had that feeling of a second family.
    Thank You for inspiring me to take more photos of people, it is definitetly out of my comfort zone. I recently took some pictures of Navar’s nephew. I was surprised at how tender the photos came out and how relaxed he was as I took the photos. His mother is a photographer so I think he is comfortable in front of the camera. I was surprised because I’m use to kids posing. It was a treat and a surprise that he was so relaxed and comfortable.

  41. Great series Otto. You have captured the ambiance wonderfully.

  42. Tod says:

    Really appreciate this post and your wonderful images from this long term essay of your friends in Vinales! Keep up the great work! 🙂

  43. Arindam says:

    Great pictures and do not know why but somehow I felt emotional while reading this post. And please do not worry about visiting our blogs; we can understand. So concentrate on your work and enjoy year time over there. Lots of good wishes for you.

  44. Amazing pictures! Love the little details in them 🙂

  45. Phillip says:

    What an wonderful series of images Otto.I really like the first one. They appear to be wonderful hard working people. Great post!

  46. These are all such wonderful captures that l find it very difficult to single out any one image. You tell the story so well in this series!

  47. Patti Kuche says:

    The smiles of the three men really do set the tone for what comes next and I can see they are as happy to see you as you are to call them family! An absolutely stunning set not to mention a fascinating project to have over time! All best to you Otto, for work and for relaxation and of course a big thank you!

  48. I lovethe ight, color and intimacy of these photographs and realize what a fine photographer. you are with a humble heart. I smile for I know you are doing what you love. No need to answer,

  49. Fergiemoto says:

    Superb photos of the people and life they live! What a treasure to have these experiences, close connections and trust with your second family.

  50. “over time you get to know your subject in quite a different way and find new ways to express your vision.” – there is nothing more exhilarating than working on the same subject and seeing it from different angles and perspectives. methinks that’s how an artisan eventually develops what you perhaps call vision or some long-term projection on how to approach his craft and works.

    wow! your pics are breathtaking and your second family – yes. they look like the hardworking, loving and generous bunch, from this end… agree – longer term connections work best. ^^

    thank you for this instructive post… btw, i hardly had the time to bloghop in the last one and a half months myself, sir. your posts give us enough clues about your sked, haha -busy. 🙂

  51. How exciting to be able to visit this country and take these pics. I love the processing of them, but their true value is in the history they convey. Thanks for sharing!!

  52. The Hook says:

    Fantastic work…

  53. Nice to meet your second family. Every captured moment reflects a meaningful human interaction. Beautiful and moving images. Thanks for sharing your journey with us.

  54. I just admired the photographs so much and I totally can understand the warmth of the relationship that has developed between you and the lovely people!

    Keep it up friend!


  55. joshi daniel says:

    those are some priceless portraits 🙂

  56. nyparrot says:

    Fantastic photos!

  57. Bindu John says:

    Great photos! You have captured them so well that they convey a lot to me.

  58. KarenAnn says:

    These are lovely! Makes one feel a bit more content and thankful for one’s own living situation.

  59. Pingback: The Long-term Project | Münchow's Creative Photo Blog

  60. Pingback: Ups and Downs of Cuba | Münchow's Creative Photo Blog

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  62. themofman says:

    “I think nothing is as inspiring for your creative development as a personal long term project. By working with one subject over time you get to know your subject in quite a different way and find new ways to express your vision.”

    This is so right.

    To do this project, what did you do in order to achieve their trust in you? What hurdles did you overcome, and are there any that you didn’t?

    • It wasn’t that hard. All it took was patience, trust and honesty. We have enjoyed each other’s company – and turned into friends. Of course I have always brought back pictures when I visit the family but that is secondary today.

  63. Awesome photography works!

  64. Su Leslie says:

    Beautiful,. I find myself wanting to look at these shots again and again.

  65. Pingback: Back from Cuba | In Flow

  66. Pingback: Visiting My Family Again | In Flow

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