La última vez with the honeybrown twins in La Casa de los Marquéses de Arcos
I hope the last time I worked with the honeybrown twins won’t be the last time I work with the honeybrown twins. I won’t call this my last hurrah. I don’t know when I’m going back. But I always hope that I will go back. Meanwhile, yes, this place right here will do for the last time I photographed the honeybrown twins, Marlon and Andro. The museum, La Casa de los Marquéses de Arcos, has a long history in Habana Vieja. It is being gutted and renovated and gentrified for the tourists.
Privacy can be a commodity in Cuba. Socialism doesn’t expect or promote it. But we found it here inside these walls. It smells mostly of damp plaster. I am tireless but I shouldn’t be tireless. I could go on and on. I am mad with the space, the light, the day, the moment, the brothers. And they give it back too. They do not tire either. They do not stop, do not wither. I would like to go on until I tremble and shake in my delirium and my transfixation, until I expire of dehydration. But the sun passes over the sky and, yes, word comes that the construction foreman waits outside in the street.
I do not want to relinquish this moment, to abandon this fort, to open the door and set time moving again to have at us, to convert the honeybrown twins into amber-coloured memories. The brothers have become so good at this. They encourage each other and pose each other and offer the other suggestions.
Like any photographer, I am a thief of sorts. I steal moments. I steal time. I steal intimacy. If my photos have stolen your soul, I never knew and that can’t be my fault. It never occurred to me at the time. But it occurs to me now: oh, how I would like to have that green chair from this shoot, to have taken it, walked out with it, and claimed it – as a sort of memento of our time together. I couldn’t say about the actual moment, now long-lost, but there is a silence in these photos that feels like body heat and smells mostly like skin and a little like damp plaster. The boys want to be seen, want to be reckoned – at least that’s what I see in their eyes.
It’s possible, I suppose, that some people are getting tired of the honeybrown twins. I don’t see how that’s possible. And if you are, I cannot bring myself to apologize here, as I finish. I often get asked why don’t I make videos? I’ve been told that I arrange a photo shoot like a story, like a video, even while I refuse to make videos. A photograph, even one that stands in for a key frame of a video, has more gravity, more dignity, more importance, and, yes, more mystery, – at least for me – than a video.
When I finish a shoot with the brothers, I am ceaselessly surprised how solid they are and how much heat they exude. I cannot look at these and not feel their heat, their density. The brothers know how to direct themselves by now. I put them in the lovely light by the pillar. And they knew just what to do. I often get asked if I have anything more explicit with my models. These images, for me at least, are already naked, raw, divine too – with a monumental intimacy and the best kind of shamelessness. Watch Marlon pose by the grand column like a Grecian boy in that glorious light. And I don’t have to direct the other; he is beckoned. He either knows what I want or he knows what his brother wants – and either way, we are both pleased. Oh glory, oh delirium! I love the way Andro invites me in, invites us in, in the midst of his sinewy performance.
I am luckier and braver in Havana. I bought my access to this brilliant space, the first time, by sharing a Hollywood cigarette with the foreman director. I am not that person in my regular life. We’re running out of time. Beyond the big door is the construction crew waiting for us to finish. But how should I stop? How can we stop? It’s so hard to stop. It’s so hard to pack up my camera and walk away. So that’s it then. We’ve lingered too long and I’ve stretched it out as long as I could. Andro dresses and checks his phone. The foreman and his crew wait out in the street. A moment later, I realize I am nearly too spent to pack up and wander the bustling streets. With plans to meet up later, the brothers would leave a moment before me. And I would tumble out of our private communion into the daylight, relinquishing this space, this moment.