Island Images

Philadelphia Weekly

2001, AUG 8

Ron Tarver’s been to Havana twice recently, and his resulting photo essay at Sande Webster Gallery (complete with catalog) -- “Ron Tarver: Havana, A Place Out of Time” -- is a velvety, romantic treatment long on poetry and short on tourist details.

Tarver has captured the once-forbidden “Greta Garbo” of cities as befits a romantic icon -- full of mystery and faded grandeur.
There’s a loving quality and a reverence in the 28 toned gelatin silver prints. Whether shooting at night or by day and whether portraying architecture or people, everything is monumental. Tarver’s technique -- intimate slices of the city captured through long exposures and printed matte-like drawings or photogravures -- conveys the tropical city through a hyper-dramatic, film-noir sensibility. It’s all black and white here, and gray takes the back seat. There's an aura of menace that sits on the largely depopulated street scenes. The work has an intimacy and a kind of benign voyeurism that makes the viewer present in each of the shots. This is especially true of two lonely scenes involving children: Boy on the Malecon -- a shot of a teenage boy sitting on a sea wall looking away from the sea -- and Kneeling Boy, a child kneeling (at play?) in a dark space, his profile silhouetted by the white light of the courtyard behind him. Icons of childhood loneliness and isolation, each might be the symbol of the city as well. Tarver, 2001 PEW fellow and longtime Philadelphia Inquirer photographer, portrays Havana as a city whose past is writ large and whose present is a cipher. (Roberta Falon) >> Through Aug. 31 Sande Webster Gallery, 2018 Locust St. 215.732.8850. www.sandewebstergallery.com