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TIME Photo Department

“For centuries, Cuba’s greatest resource has been its people,” writes Pico Iyer in an extended essay on the Caribbean nation in this week’s magazine. In the twilight of the Castro era, Cubans are finding that change brings both hope and anxiety.

To pair with Iyer’s tome, TIME called upon Danish photographer Joakim Eskildsen. Eskildsen, who previously photographed a large portfolio for TIME on the state of poverty in America, traveled to Cuba for ten days, photographing urban housing projects in Havana and rural settlements across the countryside. With the help of local journalist Abel Gonzalez Alayon, Eskildsen photographed tobacco plantations, roadside fruit vendors, migrant workers and beachfront resorts — capturing all in the vibrant saturation of medium-format color film.

“I immediately fell in awe with the complexity of this country,” says Eskildsen. “The more you learn about the situation and how people are living, the more difficult it becomes to understand. It was like learning to view the world form a Cuban angle that kept surprising and inspiring me.”

To read Pico Iyer’s extended essay on Cuba, subscribe here. Already a subscriber? Click here.

Joakim Eskildsen is a Danish photographer based in Berlin. LightBox previously featured Eskildsen’s Home Works and Below the Line: Portraits of American Poverty.

Abel Gonzalez Alayon is a journalist based in Cuba. Follow him on Twitter @abelcuba.

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David Walter Banks

Florida isn’t like other places. In fact, in some ways, Florida isn’t even like Florida. For centuries, from the time the 16th-century Spanish explorer Ponce de León first landed in Florida on his (perhaps apocryphal) search for the Fountain of Youth right up to the present day, people from the world over have looked to that large, water-logged peninsula jutting toward the Caribbean as a kind of fathomless fantasy land. Or, as photographer David Walter Banks nicely phrases it below, as “an epicenter of escapism.” Of course, no state as large and as diverse as Florida (or, for that matter, as small and as seemingly homogeneous as, say, Delaware) is ever just one thing. But again, as Banks suggests, the myth of Florida — the Florida of our tacitly agreed-upon collective imaginings — endures not because of, but despite, the state’s colossally variegated landscapes, cultures, communities and attractions. In his at-once fond and forthright portraits, Banks manages to illustrate much of the Floridian myth, while deepening the mystery of the Sunshine State’s singularly odd appeal.

A long-standing interest in escapism and seeking the surreal in the every day led me to train my lens on the manifestations of those ideas in American society. Eventually and inevitably, this practice led me to Florida, an epitome and epicenter of escapism in the United States.

In 2012, 1 in 4 Americans, or 89.3 million people visited the state of Florida, bringing in over $71.8 billion in tourism spending to an industry that directly employs well over one million individuals. Even after the economy crashed in 2008, Florida’s tourism numbers continued to climb in what is estimated as the most popular tourist destination in the world.

I am interested in the people who comprise these statistics, the environments in which they immerse themselves and the altered realities both the people and places project. I seek not to make a critique, nor to create a comprehensive factual documentation. I aim to create a vicarious experience–that of a tourist seeking fantasy.

My fascination with Florida started at a young age. Like so many Americans, my family would load up our wood-paneled Chevrolet station wagon every year and head down the highway toward the ‘Sunshine State’ for our annual Summer vacation. We would stay in a stereotypical stucco condo building on the beach called the Summerhouse. It was there that I produced some of my fondest childhood memories. It was there that I built sandcastles with my mom and dug giant holes with my dad for no apparent reason. It was there that I first met an older girl and hitchhiked to a club before I was laughed away at the door for my prepubescent appearance – I was 12, after all. It was there that I snuck off to smoke cigarettes stolen from a friend’s parents during my height of preteen angst.

These family trips were something that I looked forward to every year. I eagerly awaited the escape from our everyday life, even if only for a brief while. It is the memories of this escape that keep luring me back.

The theory of collective memory refers to the shared pool of information amongst a group of people. As Americans, our collective memory of Florida has become almost as much of a folk tale as it is based on reality. My recollections from childhood and adolescence are not necessarily how it actually looked and felt, but instead the world that I constructed from those fragmented memories. Such is our collective idea of the state, which has been fed and fueled by the masterminds of advertising and marketing.

Reality, on the other hand, is a different matter all together. Perhaps our fantasized version of Florida does exist, but if so, it is masked under layers of lines and litter, overpriced tourist traps and drunk teens who would steal the shirt off your back – This literally happened to me while photographing Spring Break. If anything is my charge while on the road for this project, it is peeling back these layers.

David Walter Banks is a conceptually based documentary and portrait photographer living in Atlanta. Follow him on Twitter @dwbanksphoto.

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mattstroud

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By Matt Stroud and Joseph L. Flatley, with additional reporting by Jesse Hicks

Barron Hansen is a self-employed web developer and researcher in San Diego. Like many people who work from home, he spends a lot of time alone in front of the computer, listening to talk radio. Over time, he began to notice that all of his favorite radio personalities seemed to be endorsing a “business opportunity” called Income At Home.

“Start making money on your own terms,” said one ad, read by Glenn Beck. It sounded too good to be true, the kind of thing most listeners probably dismiss without a second thought. And as long as Hansen had been hearing the endorsements, that’s exactly what he did. That is, until last January, when one of his web...

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The three sides of corruption: Afra Raymond at TEDxPortofSpain

"Afra Raymond is an anti-corruption activist/blogger whose work - www.afraraymond.com - has focused on the collapse and bailout of the Caribbean's largest conglomerate - CL Financial - and corruption in the property/construction arenas. Afra is a Chartered Surveyor in Private Practice and is also the President of the Joint Consultative Council for the Construction Industry - www.jcc.org.tt - which is leading the campaign for reform of the Public Procurement system in Trinidad & Tobago." In thespirit of ideas worth spreading, TEDx is a program of local, self-organized events that bring people together to share a TED-like experience. At a TEDx event, TEDTalks video and live speakers combine to spark deep discussion and connection in a small group. These local, self-organized events are branded TEDx, where x = independently organized TED event. The TED Conference provides general guidance for the TEDx program, but individual TEDx events are self-organized.* (*Subject to certain rules and regulations) Video shot and edited by Commotion Studios
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Another year has come and gone and with it hundreds of thousands of images have recorded the world's evolving history; moments in individual lives; the weather and it's affects on the planet; acts of humanity and tragedies brought by man and by nature. The following is a compilation - not meant to be comprehensive in any way - of images from the first 4 months of 2012. Parts II and III to follow this week. -- Paula Nelson ( 64 photos total)
Fireworks light up the skyline and Big Ben just after midnight, January 1, 2012 in London, England. Thousands of people lined the banks of the River Thames in central London to ring in the New Year with a spectacular fireworks display. (Dan Kitwood/Getty Images)

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After cutting a destructive path through the Caribbean, Hurricane Sandy caused extensive damage along the East Coast this week. Sandy made landfall in southern New Jersey and brought with it major flooding, travel disruption, structural damage, and power outages. New York City was especially hard hit. The storm system was so large ­-- nearly 1,000 miles wide at times -- it brought blizzard conditions to West Virginia and 20 foot waves to Lake Michigan. It is projected Sandy will have caused about $30 billion in damages in the United States. To date, the storm claimed more than 100 lives. -- Lloyd Young ( 57 photos total)
Flooded homes in Tuckerton, N.J., on Oct. 30 after Hurricane Sandy made landfall on the southern New Jersey coastline on Oct. 29. (US Coast Guard via AFP/Getty Images)

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Millions of people from Maine to the Carolinas awoke Tuesday without power, and an eerily quiet New York City was all but closed off by car, train and air as superstorm Hurricane Sandy steamed inland, still delivering punishing wind and rain. The full extent of the damage in New Jersey, where the storm roared ashore [...]

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