Osvaldo Salas Biography

Osvaldo Salas





Osvaldo Salas was born in Havana, Cuba on March 29, 1914. In 1926 he entered the Escuela de Bellas Artes "San Alejandro", which he did not finish, moving to New York with his parents in 1928 where he worked as a mechanic and welder until suffering an injury that prevented him from doing hard physical work. He was attracted to photography and in In 1943 he started working in a laboratory of the International Telegraph and Telephone Company where there was a photography club. He started to interact with the photographers and by the end of the war he already had his first camera.

In 1946 he won his first photography prize at that club. He combined the job of a welder with that of a photographer until he decided on the second as a profession. Between 1950 and 1958 he opened a photography studio on 50th Street in Manhattan opposite Madison Square Garden and began recording the life of the city.

At this studio he achieved true prestige as a photographer and, during that period, photographed Marilyn Monroe, Dalí, Sara Montiel, Elizabeth Taylor and the athletes Joe Di Maggio and Rocky Marciano among others. He was intensely interested in baseball and the integration of the major league leagues, both with African-American and Latin players, photographing many of the pioneers.

Osvaldo Salas first met Fidel Castro in 1955 while the Communist leader was fundraising in New York City. Salas’ son Roberto had also become a photographer and in 1957, at age 16, published a photo in Life magazine of the Statue of Liberty draped in a Cuban flag, which became an iconic image and caught Castro’s eye. Castro sent the message “Tell him to come back, we need him."

After having lived more than three decades in the United States, Osvaldo Salas returned to Havana with his family on January 2, 1959. His son, Roberto, became Castro’s official photographer. After the victory of the Revolution in Cuba, he returned to work for Revolucion magazine, and later founded the Granma newspaper. In 1983, the International Journalist Organization awarded him with the title 'Maestro Internacional de la Fotografia de Prensa'.

He had numerous personal exhibitions and participated in group exhibitions in America, Asia, Europe and Africa. He participated, with great success, in experimental photographic murals in colors, some of which adorn the walls of some Cuban public structures. Various distinctions and more than eighty national and international awards attest to his long career.

Osvaldo Salas died in Havana, Cuba on May 5, 1992.