Street Focus 36: Streets of the World – Havana, Cuba with Doug Kaye

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Street Focus 36: Streets of the World – Havana, Cuba with Doug Kaye

This week I am taking you to Havana in Cuba, and your guide for this photo adventure in photographer Doug Kaye.

Doug Kaye... A few years ago...
Doug Kaye… A few years ago…
Doug is a photographer living in Marin County, California. He's the co-host of the All About the Gear podcast, teaches photography and post processing and leads street-photography workshops in Cuba and elsewhere. Doug is an Inception Master in The Arcanum, an online community of photographers.
Doug started college in Engineering Physics but ended up getting a BA in Drama as a theatrical director and lighting designer. He moved to New York and studied cinematography at the NYU Graduate Institute of Film and Television, then produced and directed documentaries and worked in TV news.
After a 27-year diversion into the computer-software business including serving as the CTO of four dot-com startups and writing two books, he officially retired and spends as much time as possible with street photography and teaching. Please visit Doug's website.

Locations mentioned in this show:

  • Havana: Habana Vieja (Old Havana) and Centro Habana (Central Havana)
  • Viñales (Western Cuba)
  • Trinidad (Southern Cuba)




  1. Luminosa colorida y con las mejores sombras q jamas haya visto,Brigth,colorfull,and has the best shadows i have never been before.
    Next October I will see myself the Cuba Island It’s a must to visit it.

  2. I will start off by saying that I love your podcast. That being said Doug K’s comments on Cuba were way off the mark. I have photographed in Cuba since 1998, originally from Cuba, and speak Spanish fluently. #1: You do not have to be part of a group to go to Cuba. Cuban Visas are purchased at the Jose Marti airport on arrival. If you do purchase it as part of a group you’re getting ripped off. #2 Individuals can go to Cuba on an A6 Artist Visa from OFAC which is run by the US Treasury Department. #3 The medical care in Cuba is NOT great as Doug K said, probably because he had a Cuban handler. Regular Cubans have to bring their own sheets and light bulbs. I know this because my cousin was a Dr. there. #4 There is NO MIDDLE CLASS in Cuba. #5 Doug K obviously does not know the difference between La Habana Vieja (Old Havana) and Centro Habana (Central Havana). La Habana Vieja has ben reconstructed to its old look for the tourists and is relatively small as it was colonial Havana. Cento Habana is everything else which is massive and filled with many different neighborhoods. And lastly, shame on Doug K for trying to negotiate taxi rates with people that have nothing. Many of these Taxi drivers are Professionals that make more money driving a taxi than being an Engineer. Another first hand account.

    1. Thank you for sharing your thoughts and first hand experiences Carlos. And thank you for listening to Street Focus!

    2. Hola Carlos. It looks like you pointed your lens to the words and not to the works. I have to say those pictures are really impressive and, along with the beauty of the island, they show the passion of a photographer. Maybe Doug K is not a Cuban expert but he offered his point of view to share with the audience of this site, that is much appreciated.
      Now, as a Cuban that travels to Cuba every month, I have to disagree with you in point #1 and #2: Americans are not allow to travel to Cuba as tourists. There are 12 categories under they can sign up for a trip. The most popular one is traveling with a group for people to people exchange. Americans have to buy their visas in US before departure (when flying directly from Miami to Havana), either as a solo traveler or as part of a group. And do you know how much the visa cost? $85-$95. There is no “visa on arrival” at Terminal 2 in Havana. As you may know T2 is the terminal where flights from US land. Travelers from other points of departure like Cancun or Cayman, pay $20-$25 for the same visa and they can buy it at the airlines check in counters.
      I might agree or disagree in the other topics, but my friend, when was the last time you visited our island? Didn’t you realize there is a new class of people emerging? People moving around in Audi or Mercedes, with real state properties valued at $200K, running successful private businesses… Perhaps we need another definition for a Cuban middle class…
      Thank you so much Valerie and Doug Kaye for the podcast. I really enjoyed it.

    3. Yeah well Elmer, I think you need to practice full disclosure considering you are a travel agent that specializes in trips to Cuba! So my comments do not necessarily help you, but may help others. $2000-$3000 to visit Cuba? Really? I guess your customers have not done much research.

    4. Hi Carlos. It looks like you are not very well informed about traveling to Cuba from US. But this is Valerie´s and Doug´s place. Get in touch with me and we can discuss more in private. I promise, I will not try to sell you any of my trips. 🙂

    5. You are correct about Americans not being able to visit as a tourist. If you look back at what I said it was that any photographer can go on their own to Cuba using an A6 Artist Visa and do not need to use any People to People scams. I stand by everything else I said. That YOU charge $85 for the Visa is one thing, but it DOES NOT need to be purchased here.

    6. I am with Carlos on his points. Doug has no clue. Centro is the working mans OLD section and if you want to see real poor Cubans you have to get into the small towns like Los Palos that are all dirt roads with pigs in the streets and water gets delivered by truck once a week!!!! My wife is Cuban and I have been a few times o see her family there. Healthcare is NOT what he thinks. The best trained doctors are farmed out to other countries to boost revenue. Yes, there is a Cuban doctor in the family and is working in Qatar. The only note I disagree on is taxies. I found that you should just suggest a CUC and if it is unreasonable they speak up. It just sounds like Doug does a tourist type of visit and has no idea what the bulk of Cuba is like. On a positive note the Instax is a great idea. I bring YoYos, Hacky Sacs and other gifts for kids. ALSO NOTE that there are “posers” that have state license to make a living being photographed. Most hang out in Old Havana and 1 CUC is enough if that is the type of photo you are seeking. By US standards you will not find the food very good, most of the good food is exported. Yes there are exceptions like San Cristos and you can get a chicken lunch with salad at El Patio for $2 and a Buccanero for $1 ….enough ranting

  3. I went toCuba in January last year from the UK and it was an experience. Very safe and walked miles with many Cubans happy to chat and help. Though I do not speak Spanish this was not a problem as even with those Cubans who only speak their native language they made themselves understood but I agree with Valarie in that having a few words of Spanish helps.