Splash & Grab


Rose Marie Cromwell – El Libro Supremo de la Suerte


Words by Jessie Bond from Splash & Grab 3.

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Rose Marie Cromwell first went to Cuba in 2004 on a study-abroad programme while a photography student at NYU. Prior to this trip she had imagined the country “as a socialist paradise”, yet what she found, and has come to know more intimately returning over the years, is far more multifaceted than the idyll she had pictured.

The images Cromwell created over a period of six years returning to Cuba, exist in the gap between reality in all its complexity and the photographic image—with its distilled iconic simplicity and internal logic. This push and pull between authenticity and artificiality is captured by her image of a crumpled advertisement. A couple embrace in azure waters on golden sands, the surface of this paradise has become puckered, patched with sticky tape and bleached in the sun.

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Cromwell describes the project, which she is currently developing into a book, as being about “intimacy and the meaning of mundane things in our lives”. Few expansive landscapes or street shots locate the series in Cuba, as Cromwell was keen to avoid perpetuating stereotypes. “The baggage of shooting in Cuba is never ending”, she explained. “I want to make clear this is not a Cuba project. I tried to make personal images to overcome this.” The photographs in the series are indeed idiosyncratic, the result of “shooting intuitively, a little more metaphorically, inspired by gesture and some images where space had been abstracted in my earlier work.”

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This relationship to a process of divination and the symbolic reading of everyday occurrences offers a way to access Cromwell’s photography. Another way is understanding the images as vignettes or intense evocative glimpses, an approach influenced by the writing of Renaldo Arenas. There is significance in the details shown, yet rather than conveying a single truth, the images remain multivalent and interpretations open and personal to the viewer.

Through the use of close-ups, and even sometimes allowing a glimpse of her shadow, Cromwell tackles the myth of the photographer as an objective observer. It is impossible not to consider the proximity and role of the photographer when contemplating these intimate yet directed images.

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Max Ferguson