The Void We Leave

By chance, Oded Wagenstein met and photographed an ageing community in Cuba, which led him to question what remains after we pass on?

Pic above: Leonada Gelato Machena, in her one-room apartment. Cienfuegos, Cuba

In 2014, a chance encounter led me to meet the members of an ageing community, living in a crumbling apartment complex in the town of Cienfuegos, Cuba. Although approximately sixty years of age separated us, we bonded almost immediately.

I have returned to visit them a few times per year since. On my subsequent visits, I found apartments turning empty. The tenant left the world, leaving a few personal objects behind and the void between the walls. Those walls witnessed so much: relationships and birthdays, joy, and sadness. Now, they stand in their solitude. Soon, the government will lodge a new tenant in the apartment and walls will be painted again, until they too will become another layer of paint on the wall.

Moria Antonia Gomez’s one-room apartment. Cienfuegos, Cuba.
Tereza Boniza in her bedroom. On the wall (left) a picture of her mother when she was young. Cienfuegos, Cuba.
Colourful objects pasted on a wall in a one-room apartment. Cienfuegos, Cuba.
Delphine Fernandez, in his one-room apartment, surrounded by images of Lenin and Marx. Every day he wears the uniforms from his work at customs, even though he retired a long time ago. Cienfuegos, Cuba.
Plastic flowers. Cienfuegos, Cuba.
Ilama Bural Morachon with a broken arm in her apartment. Cienfuegos, Cuba.
Havinyo Agiar’s image reflected through a broken mirror in his one-room apartment. Cienfuegos, Cuba.
Onelia Katyo, watching the street through her apartment’s door. Anyone who is passing by Onelia’s door is her potential friend: a passing neighbour, children on their way to the nearby school, even a stray cat. Cienfuegos, Cuba.
An empty bed of a deceased tenant. Cienfuegos, Cuba.
Berta walking down the hall. Cienfuegos, Cuba.

The photographer

Oded Wagenstein

Oded Wagenstein is a photographer and lecturer who uses the photographic medium to explore the relationship between Ageing and Exclusion.

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