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Jun05

Looking for Castro

Written by // David Barbour

Havana 1994-2012

David Barbour - Looking for Castro

Between 1984 and 1994, David Barbour was a contract photographer for the Canadian International Development  Agency (CIDA) and he photographed in over 30 countries in Africa, Asia and the Caribbean. All the photographs were produced in colour on Kodachrome film and were used for educational and promotional usage. In 1994, he wanted to pursue a personal project that extended his experience in other countries and he travelled to Havana for the first time. Since then, he has returned 16 times to document life on the street, complete assignments and lead photo workshops for SPAO in Ottawa.

Over a million Canadians travel to Cuba every year but few get beyond the beach. Most discover and experience, the strength and kindness of Cuban people and return often. He has exhibited his work, produced a Youtube slideshow and a Blurb album of the work to date and hopes the images truly document the humanity of daily life of the Cuban people and the visual experience of the streets of Havana.

David Barbour studied photography at the Banff School of Fine Arts in 1973 and 1976 in Alberta. The work of Henri Cartier-Bresson truly inspired him to photograph life on the street. In 1974, he traveled to San Francisco and Vancouver, where he found the confidence and speed to produce meaningful personal images of his experience. He realized early in his career that his creative work would not support him and for 40 years he has balanced  the work that he does for others with his personal travel projects. Highlights to his career include working for the National Film Board of Canada's Still Photography Division as a producer/curator and photo editor. The Still Photo Division was the most important means of support for documentary and fine art photography in Canada for many years. Unfortunately, it no longer exists today. That position introduced him to the Canadian International Development Agency (CIDA) and he became a contract photographer for the department for almost 11 years. He traveled to over 30 countries and documented programs and life for the department.  In 1994, his association with CIDA ended and he became a free lance photographer and teacher. Clients have included Canadian Geographic magazine, UNICEF, IDRC, newspapers, government departments and today he teaches photography at the School of Photographic Arts in Ottawa (SPAO). A realization that one's personal work is the most important work in their life has motivated him to continue his work in Havana as well as document life on the street in Canada and explore new destinations to travel to. He works with a range of cameras but he prefers the Leica M6, Tri X and a 28 or 35mm lens for his own work. He considers Looking for Castro to be his most important project in his career as he was committed to produce a body of work that would be his own. His professional experience was highlighted in the National Gallery of Canada's Drawing with Light educational production on photography and he has exhibited his work throughout his career.  All of his exhibition prints are produced on Ilford WarmTone Fiber paper. He offers a one week workshop in Havana through SPAO in Ottawa in April and if you would require additional information, please contact him at This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it

About the Author

David Barbour

David Barbour

David Barbour is a Canadian photographer based in Ottawa who has balanced photo assignments, teaching workshops and personal projects throughout his career. Highlights include a World Press Award in 1985 for a photograph he took in Egypt and a Mid Career Canada Council Grant in 1999 to continue his personal work in Havana.

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