The Void We Leave

Oded Wagenstein

2014 - Ongoing


In 2014, a chance encounter led me to meet the members of an aging community, living in a crumbling apartment complex in the town of Cienfuegos, Cuba. Although approximately sixty years of age separated between us, we bonded almost immediately. I returned to visit them few times per year since.

On my subsequent visits, I returned to find apartments turning empty. The tenant left the world, leaving a few personal objects behind and the void between the walls. Those walls witnessed so much: relationships and birthdays, joy and sadness. Now, they stand in their solitude. Soon, the government will lodge a new tenant in the apartment and walls will be painted again, until they too will become another layer of paint on the wall.

Most of the people in this project are no longer alive. Today, I understand the urge I had to take their portrait in the first place. I felt that the camera, with its remarkable ability to freeze time, will help me remember them until one day, I too will become just a void between walls

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  • Leonada Gelato Machena in her one-room apartment. Cienfuegos, Cuba.

    Leonada shared with me that she loved sitting with friends in the local park, but now, when some of them are already gone she rather stays in the house. She keeps saying that "getting older" does not fit her character at all.

  • Moria Antonia Gomez's room. Cienfuegos, Cuba.

  • Tereza Boniza in her house. Cienfuegos, Cuba.

    On the wall (left) a picture of her mother when she was young. "I think that staying optimistic is good for you," she told me. "But lately, I find that difficult."

  • Colorful objects pasted on a wall in community's one-room apartment. Cienfuegos, Cuba.
    When a tenant dies, the local government houses another tenant in the apartment and the walls painted over.

  • Delphin Fernadez, in his small hut, surrounded by images of Lenin and studies of Marx. Cienfuegos, Cuba.

    Although he retired a long time ago, Delphin made sure to wear his uniform from work at the customs, on a daily basis and surrounded himself with old items of socialism. People in the community (who refer to him as "Capitan") provide him with food or soap, and in return, he shared stories about the times that "even the wars were better" as he said. In December 2016, he went under a stork and passed away.

  • Havinyo Agiar's image is reflected through a broken mirror in his one room apartment, Cienfuegos, Cuba

  • Onelia Katyo, as she watches the street through her apartment's door. Cienfuegos, Cuba.
    With almost no light or air-conditioning, most doors in the small community remain open throughout the day, and anyone is passing by Onelia’s door is her potential friend: a passing neighbor, children on his or her way to nearby school, even a stray cat.

  • Onelia Katyo's one room apartment. Cienfuegos, Cuba.

    Most of the community's elders are living alone. Therefore, when they are passing away in their houses, they are usually by themselves.

  • Ilama Bural Morachon, in her house. Cienfuegos, Cuba.
    Disabled, after she slipped and broke her arm and shoulder, she must have assistance for almost everyday action. "The body betrays you. It is a terrible feeling". She told me

  • Berta walking down the corridor of the elderly's apartment complex.
    Cienfuegos, Cuba. 

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