CENTER’s Editor’s Choice 3rd Place Award: Sara Macel
Sara Macel received 3rd Place in CENTER’s Editor’s Choice Award. Her project, What Did the Deep Sea Say shares the “fact and fiction blur” that uncovers the personal history of her deceased grandmother during World War II.” Siobhán Bohnacker, Senior Photo Editor, The New Yorker selected Sara’s work for this award and her statement is below.
The Choice Awards recognize outstanding photographers working in all processes and subject matter. The Awards are divided into four categories: Curator’s Choice, Editor’s Choice, Director’s Choice and Exhibitor’s Choice. Winners receive recognition via exhibition, publication, portfolio reviews and more. The Choice Award winners are invited to participate in an exhibition in Santa Fe, New Mexico during Review Santa Fe.
Siobhán Bohnacker is a Senior Photo Editor at The New Yorker where she commissions original photography for the magazine, is responsible for the art direction of The New Yorker’s award-winning short fiction section and both writes and curates on photography for newyorker.com.
The breadth of work submitted to this year’s CENTER Awards, is testament to the manifold ways in which photography enables us to tell stories. The expression of life, evident in the work shared, varied from the poetic, to the urgent – from self-exploration and familial life, to the examination of issues playing out on the global stage. In all cases, a spirit of inquiry was evident and the results of these visual dialogues, were inspiring to review.
Sara Macel’s discovery of her grandmother’s unprinted negatives, led her south to Hollywood, Florida, to retrace the life her grandmother led there. The result of that trip is her poignant project, “What Did the Deep Sea Say”. Documenting herself, her own mother, and interweaving her grandmother’s photographs, Macel creates a lasting, tender portrait of three women bound together, by their embrace of one another and a curiosity in how one person’s life can shape those of consequent generations.
Sara Macel (b.1981, Houston TX) is an artist and freelance photographer. After earning her BFA in Photography at NYU, she spent two years as Bruce Davidson’s studio manager and five years producing commercial photo shoots at Art Department for photographers including Platon, Steve McCurry, Robert Maxwell, Christian Witkin, and Rankin. Since leaving that role to pursue her MFA at the School of Visual Arts, her work has been internationally exhibited and is in various private collections. Sara was named one of PDN’s 30 Photographers to Watch in 2015. She is a recipient of the Individual Photographer’s Fellowship Grant from the Aaron Siskind Foundation and the Stanley Franzos Award for Emerging Photographer of the Year. Her first monograph, May the Road Rise to Meet You, was published by Daylight Books. A traveling exhibition of that work has been shown in solo shows at the Center for Photography in Woodstock, Houston Center for Photography, and Silver Eye Center for Photography and is currently seeking new venues. In addition to her freelance work, Sara teaches photography at SUNY Rockland and CUNY Kingsborough colleges. She was recently awarded a 2017 Light Work residency to complete her new series “What Did the Deep Sea Say.”
What Did the Deep Sea Say
We all have secret desires and memories that we keep in the quiet of our hearts. Some of us take those secrets to our graves, but the photographs we leave behind can betray our trust and hint at the private lives we led. My work focuses on the role photographs play in the subjective re-telling of history. With this series of images called “What Did the Deep Sea Say,” fact and fiction blur as I uncover the personal history of my deceased grandmother during World War II.
When I found a long-forgotten suitcase of photographs and unprinted negatives that once belonged to Grandma Carolyn, I uncovered a story of a vibrant young woman who temporarily left her life in the Northeast in the mid-1940s to live a carefree life in balmy Hollywood, Florida. With only her photos as my guide, I return to Florida to retrace my grandmother’s steps; to find the home she once owned; and to piece together the early beginnings of her life-long connection to the handsome priest that we knew only as Father Jim. In our popular culture and in this series of images, Florida becomes a metaphor for escape. It is a place away from daily life and obligations; a place to clear one’s head; a chance for adventure, however brief.
With the sea as the backdrop, I also photographed my mother and myself as we sought to find out more about the life of this woman we knew only as mother and grandmother. By reprinting her photographs and interweaving them with my own, I am attempting to reach across space and time to connect with her ghost and meet her anew. I’m also interested in this cross-section of women from different generations and the choices they felt compelled to make in terms of love, marriage, and family.
I am diving into this body of work hoping to find answers to my own fate. Maybe if I look closely at these photographs by and of my grandmother that she secreted away, I’ll find something. Maybe if I stare into my mother’s eyes using the camera as a translator or talisman, her secrets will reveal themselves to me. How do we learn from our ancestors? How can we three women, connected by an umbilical line that transverses time and space, speak to each other and share our inner-most desires and hopes for one another’s legacies?
“What Did the Deep Sea Say” is an on-going series about the unknowable ocean that swells within us all and the uncovering of its familiar tides within my own maternal lineage.
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