Every passionado knows his photos and yet his name is hardly ever noticed by anyone. Cigar magazines without his advertising motifs are simply inconceivable. And Manny Iriarte also has a “direct line” to manufacturers, concerning illustration for important stories. He is, in the true sense of the word, a shooting star among the photographers dealing with brown gold. For the European Cigar Cult Journal, he provided photos for the current title story – one more reason why this look behind the scenes is quite informative to the consumer.
“Manny Iriarte has already worked with many well-known and reputable enterprises in the cigar industry”, explains the video-filmer Rafael Gonzalez, who has published the key scenes of the shootings for our cover story on YouTube. (www.youtube.com/watch?v=n1hAbSmtSDU) “His photos hang in the most respected lounges, and he takes pictures for advertisements and the presenting of cigars in leaflets, catalogs and displays … he simply always brings together the product and the viewer.”
A Friend … And Highly Professional Photographer
During the preparation for the Padrón title story, the (otherwise rather tricky) question of a photographer was answered in just a few moments: “How about Manny Iriarte?”, was my suggestion to the enterprise spokesman at Padrón Cigars, César A. Gadea. “Yes, of course, perfect”, he succinctly answered, in expressing his approval. Iriarte has a respected name within the Cuban community of Miami. “I consider Manny a friend”, says company boss Jorge Padrón, not withholding his appreciation. “I have already been working with him now for four or five years. He somehow reminds me of my father, at least concerning his origin, passion and growing success. He is putting his heart and soul into his work … as a photographer and regarding cigars. And he is working at a highly professional level.”
The American Dream
Manny grew up in Santa Clara, in the middle of Cuba. As an enthusiastic competitive swimmer, he made it onto the Cuban national team. Nonetheless, after having studied at the Universidad del Deporte, he switched to photography. “Everybody knows that in Cuba it is not easy to acquire equipment for such a hobby. I had the luck of encountering a Spanish tourist who obtained a camera for me”, explains the young artist, pointing at an Olympus OM-10 from 1973. “Yes, I still have this camera. And I’m still in contact with my Spanish friend”, he says with a laugh.
As a sportsman, Iriarte did see the world. On his 30th birthday, he finally made the difficult decision to leave his family in order to flee to the USA: “After all the hardships and struggling which go along with life in Cuba, I had only one goal before my eyes – to realize the American dream.” As a sports teacher in the USA, he not only could take care of himself quite well, but at the same time also help his family back home and further educate himself as a photographer.
Every Wad of Smoke Has Body and Soul
Photography became his “eccentric passion”, the winner of the National Photo Award 2006 confessed with a heavy Spanish accent: “It is an overwhelming feeling to see the world through a lens. Somehow there is an obsessive desire in me to try to hold on to everything in life in the form of pictures.” His photographic enthusiasm for the cigar is reflecting his sentimentality for things which are touching on his homeland of Cuba. “A cigar … for me this means elegance, enthusiasm and power.” For him, every wad of smoke coming from a cigar has heart and soul. It is precisely that which he brings to expression in his artistic works and therefore attracts the attention of the most important cigar producers: 601, Alec Bradley, Don Pepin Garcia, Jesus Fuego, Matasa/Fonseca, Oliva, Perdomo and the Reyes family, just to mention a few.
At his website, www.iriarteartphoto.com, the most important of Iriarte’s works can be seen, some of which can also be acquired.
Photos: Manny Iriarte | Alec Bradley, Jesus Fuego and Don Pepin Garcia
This article was published in the Cigar Journal Spring Edition 2009. Read more