MANNY IRIARTE was born February 1970 in the sun-soaked central Cuban colonial city of Santa Clara.
He grew up a competitive swimmer, and often, while he was submerged in solitary pool lanes, images would flash across his mind, another vision of Cuban life emerging with every stroke, kick and completed lap: the once majestic, now crumbling colonial edifices of Old Havana. The remnants of three decades of Soviet presence on the island. The sugarcane and tobacco fields, the weathered, sun-beaten faces of Cuba’s famed tobacco men. These aquatic apparitions—the hauntingly beautiful and the hauntingly tragic alike—lent him a certain tranquility.
In turn, those subaquatic reveries would soon transform into a passionate desire to become a professional photographer—but a dream like that seemed a fantasy, an impossibility. Yet fate would intervene, twice. First, as a twenty-something, Iriarte befriended a Spanish tourist who, inspired by his drive, would give him a 1973 Olympus OM10. Then, when he was 30, he immigrated to Miami, armed with an unsurpassed work ethic and that camera. The dream began to assume coherent form.
Over the years, Iriarte’s eye-catching photographic work evolved into a full-service eponymous creative agency, Manny Iriarte Photography & Design. That in turn begat such creative endeavors as the Fuente The OpusX Society, with dear friend Carlos “Carlito” Fuente Jr., which offers strikingly original Fuente Fuente OpusX cigar-inspired lifestyle pieces: lighters, ashtrays, humidors and crystal Old Fashioned tumblers, as well as pieces further afield, such as limited-edition Italian leather duffel bags and woven leather and sterling silver–accented bracelets. All of these, under the aegis of the spin-off Manny Iriarte Enterprises, are aimed at those for whom cigars, especially Fuentes, are a way of life.
Now approaching a quarter-century in his adopted homeland, Iriarte has cultivated professional relationships and collaborated with some of the most notable European luxury houses: Swiss watchmaker Hublot; and prestige Parisian cigar accessories-and-gifts maisons S.T. Dupont and Elie Bleu. He also counts among his relationships a large number of luxury and lifestyle media clients—global media brands, music labels and the most noteworthy makers of premium cigars—for whom he creates and executes tailored consumer branding and strategic marketing initiatives in print, digital and video. A far cry from the boyhood pool and that first cherished Olympus—but all of it very much in the same spirit of those youthful ambitions.