Ria is unstoppable, a force to be reckoned with. And though she is constantly racing between performances and work, finding time to answer emails at 5:00 am before opening the shop (I have proof!), she manages to project a calm confidence in her own power. She seems eminently capable and unflappable, which, I imagine, is how she ends up taking on so much. We managed to sneak in this photo shoot two days before she left for Romania, where undaunted by linguistic challenges, she will be creating and directing a show in ten days!
As an actor, playwright, and director, Ria knows something about crafting character. Yet while she’s no stranger to the camera, portraying herself, rather than a projection of a character, felt a little bit strange to her. She channeled her self-consciousness into an awareness of her body and breath, directing herself as she might one of her actors, trying to embody the feeling Chérmelle envisioned.
Of her conversation with Chérmelle she reflects—“some random things came out that are not part of the usual narrative of myself, like sitting on stoops as a little kid in an adjacent neighborhood, which then became the whole motivating concept behind the photo shoot of myself.”
Ever aware of the complicated layers of directorial vision, actor, and audience that go into crafting a story, she writes (by email, from Romania), “I’m interested to see what her [Chérmelle’s] narrative of my narrative of myself will look like.” She brings up a good point, one that I’ve been thinking about as we do these profiles.
Part of the goal with this series is to give the Pushcart baristas a moment in the spotlight, to allow them to share who they are beyond the coffee counter. Yet of course, that’s a problematic task. Though Chérmelle discusses her ideas with the baristas and tailors her shoots to their comforts and desires, the photos are still ultimately her vision, while her written piece comes out of her specific aesthetic and her particular interaction with the person. To write the profiles for The Pushcart Journal, I draw on my personal and anecdotal knowledge of the person, as well as a post-photo shoot conversation reflecting on the process. What we offer, then, is not any essential, thorough, or extensive introduction to each person, but further layers of perception, projection, and artistic interpretation that only further enforce the instability of identity. Thanks for being game, Ria–I’m interested to see what you’ll think of my narrative of your narrative of Chérmelle’s narrative of your narrative of yourself.
all photos by Chérmelle D. Edwards, smdlr.com.