I began shooting stories in Cuba for the National Geographic Magazine in 1997. Over repeated trips to the island, I noticed gradual changes in the lives of the Cuban people. One constant, however was their love for the sport of baseball. By 2013 I realized that as Cuba’s relationship with the United States changed, baseball would become more of an organized business. It would resemble the baseball academies that dominate that other island of baseball, the Dominican Republic, where Major League Baseball has created a factory for developing young players.
My own love for baseball inspired me to begin a personal project to document baseball in Cuba before the inevitable changes set in. My goal, as a documentary photographer was to cover the game on all levels: from grass roots to the professional leagues, from players to fans, from cities to rural areas. My assistant and I would drive into a town or village and ask “where are they playing pelota”? I made repeated trips to the island at various times of the year to capture the integration of baseball into Cuban culture.
My book, Cuba Loves Baseball: A Photographic Journey is a visual statement of a peoples’ love for baseball in its purest form and the joy the sport brings into their lives.
Ira Block is an internationally renowned photographer, teacher and lecturer who has produced over 30 stories for the National Geographic Magazine. He has led National Geographic Photo Workshops, Expeditions and private workshops to Mongolia, Bhutan, Cuba and Tibet where
students learn about culture and photographic vision. His documentary photography work is balanced by a stable of commercial clients for whom he shoots portraits and corporate branding.
Ira can best be described as a cultural documentary photographer. He uses his cameras and lights to document people around the world, recording the change in traditions and practices. The changes are most often gradual, which is why he returns to a location time after time after
time, helping us see these changes and appreciate them through his eyes—and through social media.
Over 300,000 people currently follow him on Instagram. For Ira, this has become the new media for documentary photography. He has had photographic exhibitions around the world and has produced numerous books. His latest book Cuba Loves Baseball: A Photographic Journey documents the culture of Cuba through its love for baseball and sports.