Yaimí Ravelo: Photography Has No Limits

By Roberto Chile on March 8, 2023 from Havana on International Womens Day

Yaimi Ravelo by Roberto Chile

“Yaimí Ravelo, So Cuban; blonde but with a Black grandmother, has such honesty and nobility that makes her rise and grow whatever the challenges may be”. This is what journalist Graciela Ramírez, editor of Cuba en Resumen, had to say about the Havana correspondent of Resumen Latinoamericano, an Argentine multimedia outlet where the young photojournalist has been working since 2017.

In love with the profession of putting images into the news, Yaimí had her baptism of fire as a correspondent of Granma newspaper in Venezuela. The moments lived there, and particularly one of her photographs, marked her destiny. “From that day on, I climbed another level as a photojournalist and also as a human being. I said to myself: Nothing will stop me”.

For this artist of the lens, “photography is not only an art and a craft, it is an attitude towards life”. It is enough to look at some of her images to discover the sensibility that predominates in her photographic narrative and the shrewdness of her gaze.

RC-Your photographic narrative is dominated by the sensitivity that characterizes you. Among your most representative images, there is one in which Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro is surrounded by a crowd marching down a street in Caracas.

Maduro marching with students, photo: Yaimi Ravelo

YR-It was during a march that took place on February 12, 2014, just six months after Nicolás Maduro officially took office as president of Venezuela. That day an attempted coup d’état broke out in the country. There was violence in the streets as a consequence of the guarimbas. There was no public transportation, the Caracas subway did not work, the atmosphere was chaotic. I had been in Venezuela for 10 months and luckily I already knew the main streets of the city. A journalist from Sistema Informativo, his cameraman companion and I, as a photojournalist for the Granma newspaper, decided to walk to the place where Maduro would be together with the young people who were counteracting the coup being staged by the Venezuelan right wing, because we felt the need to send to Cuba information and images of what was happening at that moment in that city, where a strong media war was also being waged.

“The crowd was so big and we were so focused on doing our work, that we ended up getting separated. Suddenly I found myself alone with my camera trying to find a place to position myself. Then I managed to get a family to let me climb on the roof of their house, and from there, I was able to see Maduro surrounded by a sea of people and take this and other photographs of that historic moment with a NikonD200 camera and a NIKKOR 80-200mm f/2.8D zoom lens.”

RC-What significance does this image have in your career?

Rescue at the Saratoga, photo: Yaimi Ravelo

YR-That moment deeply marked my formation as a press photographer. Feeling the need to take images of a crucial fact or event in the history of a people, regardless of effort or risk, generates enough adrenaline to overcome any obstacle.You have no idea what you are capable of doing until you face life-threatening situations. For me, there is no competition in photography. This being such a subjective profession in terms of creativity, all of us photographers bring unlimited value to the documentation of any event, of places or portraits of people or figures of public significance.”

RC-What motivates you most in your work as a photojournalist?

YR-Trying to give people what I appreciate through the lens. It is a constant challenge to try to transmit just what I am feeling in the different scenarios where I find myself when I have the camera in my hand.  No one person is exactly the same as another, that’s how it is with photography when it comes to taking and interpreting it. It’s a fascinating world where reality is reflected in a constant play of light and shadow.

RC-How do you prepare yourself physically, technically, mentally and culturally to take on the challenges that this profession demands?

Obama’s visit, photo: Yaimi Ravelo

YR- The preparation is daily, constant and even unconscious. It is a good exercise for image makers and it facilitates professional preparation to see as many photographs as possible and to watch films with good photographic quality. It helps a lot to see the work of other colleagues, analyze the details, what they did in different contexts, angles, framing, light exposures. Identify how they achieved their most striking images. This exercise, far from imitation -something I believe impossible in our profession-, helps to eliminate technical errors that may creep in when operating the camera.

My mental preparation has been very marked by the security towards the type of photography that I defend, nothing is wrong considering that photography is also creation and art. However, photojournalism carries in itself “laws” that we must comply with for the good practice of transmitting information, unless the use of art and creativity in an informative photo carries with it the semiotics of what is to be transmitted. Walking with a camera on your back: the best exercise we photographers can do.

RC-I share the concept that photography has no limits; in my opinion, none. However, press photography imposes inviolable precepts. What do you do to quench your creative thirst and give free rein to your imagination?

YR-I am a free woman in a free country. I feel free of thought and moral ties, influenced perhaps by the wonderful land where I was born and raised. Many people, perhaps the majority, have a hidden inner world, unexplored for the rest of the people, that inner world can be dark or full of light, where bad and good feelings coexist. It depends on our quality as human beings whether light and good feelings prevail.

militias, photo: Yaimi Ravelo

In photojournalism, from my experience, full freedom does not exist, we respond to the editorial policy of a particular media and to the rules and precepts of press photography. It is then up to our creativity to break some schemes, but it is an uphill battle when it comes to publishing, it hurts when an image you made with passion and that expresses something deep about you is not published because it does not fit the profiles of the medium.

Photographers are lucky -and I feel fortunate in that sense- to show through the lens a great part of that different and wonderful world that exists in the human consciousness. For me, the magic is in the details, in the imperceptible, in the different colors that life adopts when a good light hits it.

I am also fortunate to work for a medium where the priority is graphics, where the image -whether still photo or video- is the leading voice of information. A concept very much in keeping with these times, in which the way of communicating on social networks is constantly evolving.

I am happy to the fullest when I take refuge in the art of photography and I can show, as in my self-portraits and other experimentation, a part of me.”

Roberto Chile is winner of the 2019 José Martí National Journalism Award. Documentary filmmaker and photographer. For more than 25 years he accompanied Fidel Castro in his tours around Cuba and the world, documenting the constant exercise of his work. According to historian Eusebio Leal, “Roberto Chile has been able to forge a singular image, always dignified and luminous of Cuba. His images form a universe of faith and spirituality, perceptible to those who, like him, are capable of loving”.

Source: Cubaperiodistas, translation Resumen Latinoamericano – English