David Tesinsky, famed photographer of Cuban transgenders, opens a new exhibition in Korea

With a fulfilling career spanning the globe, Czech photographer David Tesinsky has encountered almost no limits when it comes to his work. 

Nowadays, he has found himself lost in the streets of Seoul, South Korea with a wide array of photos by his side that will be displayed there in a new exhibition titled “Towards the Day After Today,” based on the United Nations’ sustainable development goals which encompass certain issues such as poverty and marginalized communities. 

Born and raised in Prague, Czechia’s capital city, Tesinsky’s career has taken him to uncharted waters in the form of an exorcism in Ethiopia, the Jamaican ghetto, gang violence in Guatemala, the rebellious youth of Iran, and far more. 

Accordingly so, it’s no surprise that in 2017 Tesinsky found himself once again in an unfamiliar place, this time on the streets of Havana, Cuba delving himself into the nightcall that draws out interesting places and faces for his snapshot lens. 

“I decided to go there for no particular reason. I just got in touch with my friend Ryan to meet up somewhere in the world, and we just decided on Cuba randomly. Once I was there, the most interesting thing to me was the life of the LGBTQ community,” said Tesinsky. 

Using his investigative skills as a photojournalist, Tesinsky managed to get in contact with the transgender community and a few well-known drag queens as well that are widely popular in Cuba amongst the LGBT population and even amongst the people in general. 

“To be honest, travesties and drag queens are widely covered by photography, and I am a person who always likes a new angle, a new perspective of a story or something that hasn’t been covered before,” said Tesinsky. 

“But then I found Malu, in the city of Sancti Spiritus, who was the first known transgender woman in the country, and I got fascinated by her determination to live her life despite what the society dictated,” added the 33-year-old photographer. 

Both Czech Republic and Cuba carry a communist past, meanwhile Cuba’s communist past has unfolded into the present. A comparison draws on Tesinsky’s work regarding the treatment of the transgender and drag community in Cuba for both countries, wherein a surpising manner, Cuba manages to stand out instead. 

“Now it is very normalized I think. In both countries it is accepted now. I kind of have the feeling now that it is even more accepted in Cuba as a whole than in some villages of the Czech Republic,” revealed Tesinsky. 

On the street of Narodni Trida is where the House of Cuban Culture once stood, now replaced by an Italian clothing store. Czechia’s communist past built a strong friendship with Cuba before the dissolution of Czechoslovakia, where many Cubans traveled to Czechia to study and work during the period of 1960-1990. Today, relations between the two countries are strained due to Cuba’s support of the Russian invasion of Ukraine, which defies Czechia’s foreign policy against Russia.

By Jakob Weizman and Luis León

Photo: Jakob Weizman

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