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Photos: In Havana, beauty and decay coexist

You see it as soon as your plane touches down in Havana — in the decades of texture worn into a pastel wall, in a brightly colored car parked on a quiet city street, in an elderly woman with flowers in her hair smiling at you in Old Havana — Cuba is a photographer’s dream.

Classic cars that serve as tourist taxis line up in front of the National Capitol Building, or El Capitolio, in downtown Havana. Photo by Frank Carlson

Photographers know the exhilarating feeling when there’s a seemingly inexhaustible supply of neatly framed fractions of a second waiting to be captured, and that you have them mostly to yourself — for now. And this, broadly speaking, is also a big part of the allure of Cuba at the moment, the fear that something will be lost as Havana and Washington normalize relations and Americans overrun the country with money and development.

This idea is also problematic — a romanticizing of the poverty and hardship that Cubans have spent decades enduring. Many Cubans we spoke to desperately want American money and development, and our broadcast series “The Cuban Evolution” explores some of the promise and problems the opening may hold for Cuba.

There’s also no denying the visual draw of a place that’s existed in a parallel world for more than 50 years. And so from our most recent reporting trip to Cuba, we present a collection of images of this incredible moment in time, as Cuba prepares to enter a new chapter in its history.

A man passes in front of a mural in Havana. Photo by Frank Carlson

A tourist taxi passes dilapidated buildings on the Malecon. Photo by Frank Carlson

A woman poses with a cigar on a street in Old Havana. Photo by Frank Carlson

A mother and her daughter talk on a street in Havana. Photo by Frank Carlson

Two generations of Cubans look out from a balcony in Havana. Photo by Frank Carlson

A man poses with a cigar in front of a church in Old Havana. Photo by Frank Carlson

 

A quiet street in Havana where tourists now stay through Air BnB. Photo by Frank Carlson

Every evening people gather on Havana’s ocean-front avenue, the Malecon. Photo by Frank Carlson

 

A young girl flies a kite at a beach resort outside of Havana. Photo by Frank Carlson

Children look out at the Gulf of Mexico from the Malecon, Havana’s ocean promenade. Photo by Frank Carlson

The sun rises over Havana as smoke rises from an oil refinery in the distance. Photo by Frank Carlson

The San Francisco Plaza in Old Havana, seen from the Chamber of Commerce building. Under the guidance of Leal Eusebio, Havana has used tourism dollars to restore and protect hundreds of its colonial buildings. Photo by Frank Carlson

The sun sets on the Malecon, Havana’s oceanfront promenade. Photo by Frank Carlson

Old cars pass buildings falling apart near the Malecon in Havana. Cuba is truly a place ‘frozen in time.’ Photo by Frank Carlson

 

Classic cars on a Havana morning. Photo by Frank Carlson

 

A man sits on a stairwell overlooking the Malecon. Photo by Frank Carlson

A woman takes in the view of the Malecon from the window of a building falling apart. Photo by Frank Carlson

 

An Apple logo on an old car stopped on a busy Havana street. Photo by Frank Carlson

A woman stops at a café in Old Havana. Photo by Frank Carlson

armen Blanco Boyce, an 87-year-old Cuban who supported the revolution, worries about what may happen to Cuba as it normalizes relations with the U.S. ‘I want to be a friend of the United States, because I love your country. But I’m very, very scared,’ she told us. Photo by Frank Carlson

A poet sits outside La Bodeguita Del Medio, an Old Havana bar once frequented by Ernest Hemingway and Pablo Neruda. Photo by Frank Carlson

 

Cars pass on Havana’s ocean avenue, the Malecon. Photo by Frank Carlson

Cuban boxers spar on the Malecon in front of the statue of Francisco de Miranda, a Venezuelan revolutionary considered the forefather of the Latin American independence movement. Photo by Frank Carlson

A farm worker poses in front of a photo of former Cuban president Fidel Castro on the outskirts of Havana. Photo by Frank Carlson

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