Photographer Rosie Marie Cromwell shares a personal view of Cuba through her lens

Posted: 03-Oct-16 10:19

New York and Miami-based photographer, Rosie Marie Cromwell recently embarked on an eye-opening Cuba journey where she skipped the typical overdone photography cliches to capture a much less exposed Cuba, one that's equally deserving of being showcased in its raw, bare and un-Photoshopped glory. Here we echo her work as was recently published, explored and exhibited on a TIME magazine article by Paula Kupfer.

Photographer Rosie Marie Cromwell shares a personal view of Cuba through her lens

Despite Havana being one of the most photographed cities in the world, especially in more recent times when the strong focus on the capital has gained even more intensity thanks to the reestablishment of ties between the Caribbean island and its closest northern neighbour, it´s rare to find photographers snapping something other than its vintage cars and the shabby chic appeal of its decayed colonial buildings. But Rosie Marie Cromwell dared to explore further and did just that by going beyond the clichéd Havana haunts to expose a more human and latent side of today´s Cuba.

How did she manage such a challenging task that few other Cuba photographers attempt? By living and travelling to Cuba over the lengthy period of no less than eight years. Miss Cromwell took her own sweet time getting to know not just Cuba, but most importantly its lively and spirited Cubans, with their day-to-day routines, adversities, hopes and dreams (as well as how they overcome them) and it was this combination of idiosyncrasy and folklore that inspired the majority of Cromwell´s unique thought-provoking snaps. The ultimate result? The publication of her Cuba-dedicated series, entitled “El Libro Supremo de la Suerte” (The Supreme Book of Luck), a name that plays on Cubans´ superstitious and spiritual nature, which she got to know first-hand during her time interacting with them.

A recent TIME article by Paula Kupfer, illustrates and exhibits some of Cromwell´s compelling Cuba photographs while giving an explanatory background to the singular stories behind them. We make echo of such article in light of what Cromwell´s work was able to achieve, portraying a more personal, harder-to-decipher insight into the daily lives of Cubans, one very few visitors and holidaymakers get to see.

Speaking about the photograph series´ title, Cromwell explains that it´s simply about Cubans and their reliance on luck. Ultimately, it was inspired by the island´s illegal, under-the-radar lottery system known as “el bolito” and where numbers represent everyday objects, historical moments, feelings, animals and experiences. For instance, she says that 93 stands for “revolution”, 83 represents “daily problems” and 1 is a “horse”. The act of concocting such a mix of sometimes powerful others evocative images and placing their faith on them with the picking of lottery numbers says a lot about Cuba´s mystical aura. The meaning behind each number means Cubans pick and arrange their numbers based on specific moments in their life, revealing dreams, strong haunches or feelings towards particular things or goals. Theirs is a science of faith that relates very closely to their personal lives.

As Cromwell explains:

I realised that this way of experiencing the everyday was not unlike the way I chose to make pictures. Garlic, someone brushing their hair—they were simple things that by the act of photographing were made more meaningful and monumental. It was a similar gesture to what people did when they picked lottery numbers.”

While the selection of photographs may seem odd to the untrained eye, it´s actually not that hard to see why writer Paula Kupfer dubs Cromwell´s pictures as “a lyric homage to Cuba”. From a white bedsheet hanging over the iconic Malecon seawall, to visibly emotional individuals photographed up-close, stray dogs and men with varying skin-stones embracing or giving each other a hand (all the while subliminally exemplifying Cuba´s diverse multi-ethnicity), the photographs speak for themselves if only you stop to listen.


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