Excerpts from “Cuba in Three Acts,” by Marlaine Glicksman. Published in Isla (BazanPhotos Publishing 2014)
Marlaine Glicksman: Robert Frank has been your main source of inspiration almost since your dream at 17. His words and spirit appear throughout Isla—and throughout your earlier books and our conversations. For many years and on many visits to New York, you expressed the strong desire to meet with him. Today you took the very symbolic step of doing so.
Ernesto Bazan: After you urged me to call him, in the silence of my Brooklyn apartment, I had a moment of reckoning: I heard my father telling me to pick up the phone and dial his number. I had been procrastinating about this moment for so long.
Robert Frank answered the phone. When I heard his voice I remained silent for a moment, but then I uttered a few words simply saying that I wanted to meet with him. He graciously invited me to come over the next morning. I thought it was going to be a formal, brief meeting. We spent two hours together.
I watched him slowly leafing through my books. “You must have worked on your books for a long time?” he commented. “Yes,” I replied. We talked about our lives. He wanted to know about my family. He smiled when I told him that I had twin boys. I asked if it was okay to take a picture of him. He assented without moving his eyes from Bazan Cuba. I pulled out my iPhone and snapped a few images to remember our encounter. I even managed to shoot a brief video of him on the phone. He signed my copies of The Americans and London Wales. He wrote, “Good luck, Ernesto.” I left him dedicated copies of both Bazan Cuba and Al Campo, and a digital file of Isla for him to look at. He promised he would. At the end of my visit he invited me to return next summer.
I can say that meeting Robert Frank has been one of the most important moments in my life. I’m overjoyed that I finally met the man behind the photographs; the man who has put all his soul and compassion into every picture he took; the man who has endured so much. My Cuban trilogy has received the final blessing! I’m glad that I listened to my father’s voice.