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Review: South and Que Bola Asere, Celebrating Cuba 

Photos of Cuba from the New Orleans Photo Alliance, along with a new show by photographer Mark Steinmetz

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The one-word title of Mark Steinmetz's exhibition, South, serves notice of what we can expect from images so deadpan they suggest comments like "Yep," "Nope," or "Maybe." Although inspired by great street photographers like Garry Winogrand and Robert Frank, who captured the manic dynamism of 20th-century American life, Steinmetz focuses on the poetically pensive moments of ordinary Southerners. In Athens, GA (pictured), a girl lounges on a car amid the bland nocturnal chaos of a parking lot sometime in the 1990s, seemingly pondering personal mysteries. Her lost-in-thought aura has much in common with a guy in a T-shirt furtively smoking a cigarette as he clutches a Styrofoam cup in a wooded patch in Johnson City, TN, 1995. Like characters in Raymond Carver short stories or Randy Newman's Good Old Boys album, they epitomize the folks who populate much of the new South and who probably don't vote, yet whose unanswered questions and comments left unsaid, sometimes seem to hang in the air like the hazy morning dew in June.

  The Que Bola Asere photographs of Cuba are essentially documentary views depicting slices of life in the Caribbean time capsule that is Cuba today. Amid the journalistic images of typical apartments, shops and cityscapes, the more personal poetry of the place comes through in works like 1956 Dodge Royal in Havana, in which a hulking Detroit cruiser with extravagant, if faded, fins is framed by a line of colorful laundry and a little girl with a faraway look in her eyes. Here we sense the inner life of a place where a proud people obviously feel very at home yet also are just hanging on, at the mercy of forces they can't control. A place where the familiar patriotic slogan "Viva Cuba Libre!" painted on a crumbling stucco wall can assume ironic double meanings.

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