Helena Kubicka de Braganga was born in 1978 to Polish and Portuguese immigrants in London, England. Her attention to detail, colors shapes and simply her introspective nature developed at an early age. At the age of fifteen, a close friend compelled Helena to begin photographing and modeling. They put together a darkroom in her basement and experienced the magic of developing a print, the slow process of witnessing the black and white image appear on a silver gelatin print while the acrid smells of developer, stop and fixer baths clung to her skin and clothes. Helena painted and created mosaic murals in high school and university but her strong desire to feel the camera and sense the darkroom pulled her back into photography.
At age twenty, Helena was greatly influenced by the movie "I Am Cuba." The surreal imagery mixed with the ability to channel intense human emotions inspires the way she photographs today. After receiving an honors degree in Photography, Spanish Literature and French Literature from Rutgers University, Helena began freelancing in New York City for various publications such as The New York Times and The New York Post. She was granted the honor to work alongside a number of legendary photographers, becoming the studio manager for the late Arnold Newman and assisting Ralph Gibson, a mentor and close friend.
Eight years after seeing "I am Cuba" and armed with a Leica camera, Helena visited Cuba to photograph local hip hop artists who were profiled in the documentary "East of Havana". Helena was captivated by Cuba, the people she met there and the relative undocumented life of ordinary Cuban citizens. On her second trip she spent over two months traveling, meeting artists, musicians, prostitutes, farmers and revolutionaries. Eventually through the network of people she cultivated, she was able to penetrate deeper into the lives of her subjects than she could have ever imagined. Helena believes that the photographs exude the trust and intimacy that she built with her subjects and that they express through poetic colors the mysterious lives and struggles of Cubans today.
Her book "I Am Cuban" was published by Damiani in 2011 and is available at bookstores worldwide.