22 stunning aerial photos of Cuba

unseen cubaMarius Jovaisa Matanzas, Artemisa Province.

As relations between the Cuba and the US begin to mellow, the Caribbean country is becoming more and more accessible.

But back in 2010, when Marius Jovaisa first visited the island, things were still quite tense. This presented a challenge to the aerial photographer, who has a long history of photographing beautiful locations from above, and many books and international exhibits of under his belt.

Jovaisa had come to Cuba with a plan to shoot the island’s diverse landscape from the sky. The task turned out to be a tall one.

After two years of pleading with the Cuban government, Jovaisa was finally granted permission to photograph Cuba from above, and he became the first photographer to do so.

He spent two and a half years on the project and his subsequent book, “Unseen Cuba,” is now available for purchase. The photographs give an exhaustive survey of Cuba from the sky, showing us just how varied and beautiful a place it can be.

Marius Jovaisa has made a long career out of aerial photography. He has taken large-format photos of such places as Cancun, Belize, the Yucatan Peninsula, and his home country of Lithuania.

Marius Jovaisa has made a long career out of aerial photography. He has taken large-format photos of such places as Cancun, Belize, the Yucatan Peninsula, and his home country of Lithuania.

Marius Jovaisa

Artemisa Province.

But getting access to photograph Cuba from above was by far his most challenging project yet.

But getting access to photograph Cuba from above was by far his most challenging project yet.

Marius Jovaisa

Sancti Spiritus.

It took two years for Jovaisa to gain approval from the Cuban government to photograph the country from the air.

It took two years for Jovaisa to gain approval from the Cuban government to photograph the country from the air.

Marius Jovaisa

Remedios, Villa Clara.

“I returned to Cuba many times, visiting all possible ministries, institutions, foundations, and art associations. I organized seminars and presentations, even a huge exhibition of my Lithuania photos in one Havana gallery,” he tells Business Insider.

Marius Jovaisa

“The process was very long, complicated, slow, and often frustrating,” Jovaisa says. He admits that he considered quitting more than once.

Marius Jovaisa

Havana.

After years of “paperwork and bureaucracy,” Jovaisa says, he was finally granted support from the Cuban Ministry of Culture.

After years of

Marius Jovaisa

Sancti Spiritus.

“I think the fact that I come from Lithuania, a former USSR state, and still speak Russian, that I also learned Spanish while frequenting Cuba, that I was very persistent, that I didn’t ask for any financial support, and that I already had two major aerial-photo books finally convinced the Cuban government to let me to do the project,” he says.

Marius Jovaisa

Guardalavaca, Holguin.

But permission was only half the battle. In other countries, Jovaisa says he would simply rent a small plane for his projects. In Cuba, he had no other option but to outright buy one.

But permission was only half the battle. In other countries, Jovaisa says he would simply rent a small plane for his projects. In Cuba, he had no other option but to outright buy one.

Marius Jovaisa

He ordered one from Australia and had it shipped by sea. Upon arrival, he had to spend even more time finding a pilot and mechanic to operate the craft.

He ordered one from Australia and had it shipped by sea. Upon arrival, he had to spend even more time finding a pilot and mechanic to operate the craft.

Marius Jovaisa

Camaguey.

Jovaisa used what’s called an “ultralight,” which has two seats and a single propeller. He always uses a pilot, so he can focus on the photography.

Jovaisa used what's called an

Marius Jovaisa

Guantanamo.

Once all his permissions and equipment were in order, Jovaisa could finally begin his project in earnest.

Once all his permissions and equipment were in order, Jovaisa could finally begin his project in earnest.

Marius Jovaisa

Villa Clara.

After two years of paperwork, Jovaisa spent another two and half years photographing the country.

After two years of paperwork, Jovaisa spent another two and half years photographing the country.

Marius Jovaisa

Santiago de Cuba.

“We meticulously flew above the whole island, from the very westernmost point, Cabo San Antonio, to the Eastern Punta Maisi,” he says.

Marius Jovaisa

Holguin.

Taking more than 50,000 photos in all, Jovaisa says he tried to “capture all the most important geographical parts, all types of landscapes and cityscapes.”

Taking more than 50,000 photos in all, Jovaisa says he tried to

Marius Jovaisa

Santiago de Cuba.

Another bureaucratic hitch came when Jovaisa tried to fly over Havana, seen below, as well as a few other major cities. Initially, the government would not allow him to do so.

Another bureaucratic hitch came when Jovaisa tried to fly over Havana, seen below, as well as a few other major cities. Initially, the government would not allow him to do so.

Marius Jovaisa

Havana.

“But as time went by, I convinced the authorities to reconsider and eventually I was allowed to fly everywhere I needed,” he says. Jovaisa’s persistence had paid off again.

Marius Jovaisa

Havana.

Jovaisa only flew early in the morning or late in the evening, in an effort to capitalize on the low sun and long shadows.

Jovaisa only flew early in the morning or late in the evening, in an effort to capitalize on the low sun and long shadows.

Marius Jovaisa

Ciego de Avila.

“This takes a lot of time but allows you to capture truly magical moments,” he explains.

Marius Jovaisa

Sancti Spiritus.

While he says that he couldn’t possibly pick a favorite shooting location, Jovaisa does say that the views of Baracoa (seen below) are “deeply imprinted” in his memories.

While he says that he couldn't possibly pick a favorite shooting location, Jovaisa does say that the views of Baracoa (seen below) are

Marius Jovaisa

Baracoa, Guantanamo.

Even after all the complications and frustrations, Jovaisa says that “the people of Cuba are incredibly sincere, welcoming, warm, and tough because of difficult and poor life conditions.”

Even after all the complications and frustrations, Jovaisa says that

Marius Jovaisa

Baracoa, Guantanamo.

Jovaisa was also struck by just how beautiful Cuba actually was. “It has an amazing variety of landscapes, both natural and man-made,” he says.

Jovaisa was also struck by just how beautiful Cuba actually was.

Marius Jovaisa

Sancti Spiritus.

“I hope that people [who view the work] will see Cuba as a wonder of nature and human history, and as an absolutely unique place in the world,” he says.

Marius Jovaisa

Ciego de Avila.

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