René Peña's black and white photographs demand attention

This Cuban photographer's haunting images send powerful messages about the individual's relationship to society.

From the Series

Born in Havana, Cuba in 1957, self-taught photographer René Peña took his very first photograph with his family camera when he was just eight years old. Although his career in photography was never planned, Pena started exhibiting his photos in the early 90s.

Peña’s characteristic black and white images featuring somewhat obscured subjects or bodies are nothing but stirring, as each one seems to disclose a very specific story. The photographer’s ability to capture a certain truth behind an individual is what resonates with viewers.

"My work is basically about the relationship between individuals and a particular social group, how the individual keeps trying to have his own identity even though he can't escape his social group and society in general," says Peña in an interview with Havana Cultura.

Critics have tried to attach specific themes like black consciousness or eroticism to his work, but Peña refutes this type of external labelling. According to him, his work is a constant dialogue:

“With my work I try to establish a dialogue firstly with myself, and then with the rest – the rest is the whole world. What interests me is that people should see themselves in what I’m saying.” 

Images sourced from Havana Cultura