Los últimos Carboneros de Cuba / The last charcoal burners of Cuba
Stéphane Noël’s gum prints of Cuban charcoal burners each make an impression. A meeting, weathered faces, intensive eyes haunt and yet amaze you.
In a secluded place in Cuba where it seems as if time stood still, charcoal burners still live in villages where the strong smell of smoke is always present, day and night.
The strong people are proud of their origins and ancient, yet dying, profession. They have learned it from their parents and grandparents and they are used to the simple life.
Large igloos of wood are burned and put out with sand like it was done centuries ago. It is hard to work in the smoke and extreme heat. During the process the coal burners sometimes literally have to escape out of risk for suffocation. Especially in the night the process creates a magical-looking spectacle which is accompanied by a lot of smoke.
Most likely this is the last generation of men and women who live their lives this way, so different from our sophisticated lives.
It is extra special that these impressive, yet simple, people are being captured with their old profession by one of the oldest copy production, the gum print. A gum print is a form of chromatography for the manufacture of pictures on paper. The sensitivity of mixtures, of for instant Arabic gum, is being used, while the image remains on the original layer.
This special technique consists of several layers of the same image on special pre-prepared paper. A gum print is a traditional, very laborious and precise work.
Stéphane Noël, born in 1969 in Huy in Belgium, has learned this special technique in 2004 from Jean Janssis, a master in the field of the gum print. In 10 years Noël has mastered the technique.