Evanston-based photographer captures Cuban culture in new exhibition


Julia Jacobs/ Daily Senior Staffer

Jerry Alt (left), an Evanston-based photographer, shows his nature photography alongside his business partner Annette Patko at a June art festival in the city. Alt is debuting on Sunday a collection of his photography from his trip to Cuba.

Julia Doran, Reporter

Evanston-based photographer Jerry Alt, who has traveled the world capturing natural landscapes and its inhabitants, will unveil Sunday a photo collection from his trip to Cuba.

The collection, titled “Forgotten Cuba,” will be housed at the Civic Center and features about 50 images of the people, environment and culture of Cuba as it exists today following decades of estrangement from the U.S., Alt said.

Along with a small group of professional photographers, Alt said he strove to capture authentic images of the country by engaging with locals and traveling to areas not generally visited by tourists.

Alt told The Daily there was a sense of vitality in the country and that the people with whom he interacted were friendly and welcoming, taking interest in him and his group.

“I’m hoping that as people get an opportunity to see these photos they will recognize that there is a vibrant culture there and that Cuba is a viable destination for travel,” he said.

Alt said he predicts the recent restoration of relations between Cuba and the United States will quickly alter the unique culture that he was able to experience during his stay. Because of that, he said he wants to impart a sense of urgency on those who wish to visit the country.

The absence of a diplomatic relationship between Cuba and the United States has resulted in a lack of knowledge about Cuban life in this country, said Jennifer Lasik, Evanston’s cultural arts coordinator.

The powerful and eclectic nature of Alt’s photography offers a rare and intimate look at the country that has long been a subject of natural curiosity for many Americans, Lasik said.

“Jerry’s work will really show the depth and the breath of the Cuban culture,” she said. “He is not monolithic in his approach. You will see the liveliness of the culture, the Cuban color for life and food, and you’ll also see some of the harshness of life and the toll it takes.”

Now a seasoned professional, Alt said his passion for photography was born at age 10 when he began saving up money to afford film for his first black-and-white camera. As he pursued his interest through high school and college, his appreciation for the craft grew, he said.

After receiving praise from friends for photos taken during his trip to Australia in 2009, Alt said he decided to train with a professional photographer to hone his natural skills.

Although travel and nature photography have become some of his main focuses, Alt also owns Bordeaux Studio, an Evanston business that specializes in commercial and lifestyle photography.

Annette Patko, the principal photographer at Bordeaux Studio, has worked with Alt for three years. Patko said their different skill sets complement each other well.

“It’s a good balance as a business partnership, and I think we encourage and inspire each other to always get better,” she said.

Patko said she is excited for the exhibition to show the public how Alt has developed as a photographer because the collection departs from his characteristic nature shots.

Alt spends his free time teaching amateur photographers in classes and workshops. He is also on the board of directors of the Chicago Photographic Society, a member of the Professional Photographers of America and a contributor to several nature and photography organizations.

His exhibition will debut this weekend in the north stairwell of the Civic Center, where it will remain on display through the end of January.

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