Deena Stryker initially traveled to Cuba as a journalist for Agence France Press. While there, she wrote to Fidel Castro, asking permission to return to write a story about the revolution. Castro granted her request, and Stryker flew back to Cuba in December 1963. She was given complete access to Fidel, his brother Raul, and members of the new government, as well as permission to move freely about the country.
Stryker roamed the island taking pictures and talking to officials and citizens from all walks of life. The Deena Stryker Photography Collection, now housed at the Archive of Documentary Arts, comprises manuscript materials and approximately 1,850 photographs made during Stryker's seven-month stay in Cuba.
The broad range of subjects in the collection reveals the full extent of her access to the country, its people, and its leaders. In addition to the numerous photographs of Fidel Castro talking, visiting a cattle ranch, playing basketball, and demonstrating his exercise routine, there are images of giggling school girls, young women strolling downtown wearing head scarves over hair curlers as women did in the early 1960s, people promenading along the Malecón, American cars, farmers, fishermen, new construction sites, carnival, busy restaurants, and other aspects of everyday life in the city and countryside.
Although Stryker was a professional journalist, she was an amateur photographer. Alberto Korda, Fidel's personal photographer, processed all of her negatives in his Havana studio, creating contact sheets and a small number of proof prints.
The complete collection of negatives has been digitized and is available online.