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January 29, 2021


Photography by Ruber Osoria
Interview by Karin Svadlenak Gomez

Ruber Osoria is a Cuban photographer, now living in Southern Chile, far from his home country. It was in the Cuban countryside where he first fell in love with photography, initially taking photos of anything around him on his mobile phone. It was not until he got to Chile that he had the opportunity to acquire a used camera. He is keen on showing life in the streets, documenting conflict and is not afraid to show misfortune in his photographs.


TPL: Ruber please tell us about yourself.

RO: I was born in eastern Cuba, in a town of Taino heritage, which is subtly penetrated from the back by a wonderful river, which gives the name of Contramaestre to my beloved land, the land of the last mambí, and where the three greatest men in the history of Cuba, Cespedes, Marti and Fidel, washed their bodies in that river.

Son of a single, peasant mother, an example of feminism, my mother, without knowing what it was to be a feminist, lived in the town of Maffo, in a wooden house with earthen floor, and 70 percent of the food on our table was produced by my mother's hands, because instead of planting flowers and roses, she planted bananas, corn, beans, an infinite number of things.

TPL: When did you become interested in photography?

RO: I started taking photos with an iPhone that an uncle who lives in the United States gave me during one of his trips to Cuba. I would go out with my rectangle in hand and isolate myself far between the embrace of palms and carob beans, I did not know that there was a photography movement and much less that it was considered an art. I just felt good, full, in the climax . And so my friends, artists who graduated from the academies of plastic arts, fell in love with my photography, to the point when I did my first exhibition in my town. Everything was very nice, I fell in love with that social recognition, which gave me my own identity, a unique and exclusive language, and there was the enormous task of learning and educating oneself, difficult for a peasant like me in a country without internet to even see a tutorial. But I had cinema and, most importantly, good friends.

TPL: How did you get to Chile, being Cuban? What are you doing there?

RO: I was born in eastern Cuba. I come from a humble family where the majority of its members, and Cubans in general, perceive the United States as a very civilized country with rich, sophisticated and noble people. It was the perfect destination to migrate to, even more so with all the benefits that we were able to obtain, thanks to the differences between Cuba and the USA, benefits such as the Cuban Adjustment Act or the Wet Feet Act. When those laws were eliminated, Cubans had to rethink a new direction to migrate to, first finding Chile, the paradise of neoliberalism in Latin America.

In 2018 I made the decision to migrate to Chile in search of a good job, with the aim of buying my first camera and continuing with this passion that continued to grow every day. I went through 4 countries in less than a month.

I was a victim of human trafficking, thirst, hunger and fear. Being in the hands of traffickers, anything unexpected could happen. I finally arrived in Chile as an undocumented migrant. I had never imagined living in Chile, much less working there. It was an impossible dream for a young man like me. Before arriving in Chile, apart from soccer, Neruda's poems, and some emblematic places like the Atacama Desert, I did not know anything about this country.

With the money I earned from the first illegal jobs I did, I bought a second-hand camera. It was a Sony A58, my first camera with the kit lenses. Months later it happened that I had to live through a social revolution, so I took this series of photographs entitled "Chile the other earthquake".

TPL: Where do you find your inspiration?

RO: I find my inspiration in literature, in audiobooks, and reviewing a lot of work by other photographers and photography groups.

TPL: Do you have any favourite artists or photographers you would like to share with us, and the reason for their significance?

RO: My favourite photographers are Sergio Larrain, Raúl Cañibano, and Sel Sagama.

Sel Sagama is a photographer and friend who has changed the way I look and do my work. He has changed my style by 95%, in terms of the technical as well as the subjective and creative aspects.

TPL: Has your photography style changed since you started?

RO: Yes, my way of photography has totally changed since I started. Now with a more authorial look and with a message behind it, there is already a working table, it is no longer taking photos just for the sake of taking photos.

TPL: Do you have a favourite place to take pictures?

RO: The street, conflict, misfortune are my favourite places. But my special place to take photos is the theatre. It is a challenge, it is composing on top of a composition.

TPL: With what type of equipment do you do your photographic work? Do you think equipment is important to achieve your vision in your photography?

RO: I do my photographic work with a second-hand Sony alpha 58 with the kit lenses, which I bought with months of savings.

If I believe that the instrument is a driving motor of a photographer, not in the vision as such, but I believe it is a bridge, where the unreal and the subjective become palpable and solid, such as photography is.

TPL: Besides photography, do you have an artistic background?

RO: Before discovering this beautiful sensitivity for photography, I was dedicated to the Moorish art of the tablas (a type of drum), and I was the vocalist of a small punk band in my town, also performing for the radio.