Itchy-footed photographer and artist Rose Marie Cromwell lives and works between Miami, Cuba and Panama. “I come from a family of social workers, and was part of a young artist and activist collective when I was a teenager in the 1990s,” Rose tells us of her journey into photography. “I watched the four day WTO protests in Seattle, and the experience influenced me greatly. Since then I have been interested in issues of social justice and in the effect of globalisation on local populations. Many people greatly benefit from the global expansion of commerce, but many others are impacted negatively.”
“I approach these themes, however, more as a poet than a journalist. I like to work within the confines of a specific geography, a documentary tradition, but beyond that, the work is subjective and self-reflexive. The location is not a subject for me to document, but rather a stage from which to allude to larger concerns. I acknowledge the impossibility of pinning down the representation of a physical place and am more interested in the depiction of my psychological space.”
Mixing found street scenes with staged images, Rose explains that “the methods of construction vary from photograph to photograph. Some of the images are of found street scenes, and some are more elaborately performed. Gestural performance can imply that there is a larger meaning than what is physically in the image. I mine performance for authenticity, to find moments where gender, actions, race, and religion, become ambiguous and confusing. I want the viewer to deconstruct perceived realities of the photographed scene, and of our globalised world.
Rose’s series El Libro Supremo de la Suerte, which translates as “The Supreme Book of Luck” takes its title “from a booklet that explains La Charada, a Chinese-Cuban folkloric number system that assigns specific meaning to numbers 1 to 100,” Rose explains. “Many Cubans rely on La Charada to translate life events into numbers they play in the underground lottery.”
The series, which was borne out of eight years that the photographer spent living and working in Havana, ignores the city’s highly recognisable vistas, lingering instead on abstracted representations of Havana’s streets, its residents and rituals.
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