I am Cuban is an exploration of the largely undocumented life of the Cuban people. Travelling extensively in Cuba between 2007 and 2009, Helena's work contrasts with the well-known images of an isolated, decaying Cuba to highlight a cross-section of Cubans in startlingly earnest and evocative portraits. Helena fixes her lens on segments of society hidden from view – prostitutes, gays, transvestites, punk rockers and swingers. For them, Helena's camera became both a safe haven and a stage. While not a political statement, the images acknowledge the contemporary Cuban reality of pervasive poverty in weary faces, young and old. Among artists, musicians and ordinary citizens Helena found a creative energy, vitality and irrepressible desire to connect to the rest of the world.
Born in 1978 to Polish and Portuguese immigrants in London, Helena began her early career working with Arnold Newman, whose iconic environmental portraiture informed this body of work. Acclaimed photographer Ralph Gibson handed her his Leica and supported the project from its inception.