What it’s really like to be a young man in Cuba today

What it’s really like to be a young man in Cuba today

The Habana Boys — Joshua Osborne set out to Cuba with 20 rolls of film and an open mind. What he came back with was a book showing the many faces of Habana's youth – style, politics, subcultures and all.

Havana is a city of contrasts. As the capital of Cuba, it exists under a communist government, while simultaneously being a fledgling touristic hub, drawing in thousands of outsiders every year – be it for the cigars, the rum, the boxing, or the history.

At the beginning of this year, one of these outsiders was London-based photographer Joshua Osborne, who headed out to the country with 20 empty rolls of film, curiosity and an open mind. What he returned with was HABANABOYS: his debut photography book that serves as a testament that, no matter how different the political system, some things stay the same – youth being one of them.

The book, with vibrant design by Joe Joiner and a foreword by Dazed arts and culture editor Ashleigh Kane, shines a light on the lives and different styles of young men in the Cuban capital – with all their highs, lows and growing pains.

The subjects, all men (with one exception), are part of a variety of different subcultures that are prevalent in the capital. They come from many different backgrounds, and were street-cast with the linguistic help of two local “Wi-Fi boys” Joshua struck a friendship with.

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Habanaboy – Joshua Osborne 4“You’ve got the Reggaeton boys, who are the ones with all the fades and the lines shaved in their hair, they would listen to Daddy Yankee and stuff,” explains Joshua in his introduction. “Then you have Miki Boys, who are into European music and fashion. They’re particularly interested in tourist girls. They’re also quite open minded and embrace a lot of different cultures. Then there are the skaters – a young and growing community, because everything has to be handmade or brought in by someone visiting. And then, of course, there are the boxers.”

There are no stereotypes to be seen here – no gaudy cigars or dramatic political statements. Instead, dilapidated buildings intertwine with golden rings, makeshift grillz, footballers, police uniforms and Drag Queens.

The accompanying quotes, just like the pictures, show a mix of familiarity and unfamiliarity, all while offering an honest perspective on what its like to be young and Cuban today. Although part of a changing social landscape, they’re also dealing with the familiar need to belong. “So often, people come here with the idea that it doesn’t work at all, that it’s shit,” said one of the boys. “And then they see the joy with which we live.”

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HABANABOY is out on the 1st of September, at Protein Studios in Shoreditch. You can keep up with Joshua Osborne on his website

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