Sandra Bacchi: Watermelons Are Not Strawberries
As a young child, I naively thought that parents have all the answers—that they have everything figured out. As a father of two, I now fully recognize that parents often have no idea what they are doing. Why else would parenting books be so popular? We don’t have the answers. We are constantly scrambling for them and trying to work out solutions. Watermelons Are Not Strawberries narrates photographer Sandra Bacchi’s personal experiences as a mother, and speaks universally to some of the anxieties associated with raising kids. Through Bacchi’s lens, we feel her connection to her daughters—that of awareness and empathy. We get a sense of the vulnerabilities of both parent and child, as well as adaptations necessary to overcome (what seem to be daily) unanticipated challenges. The title of the project refers to a statement made by one of her daughters, who has a strawberry allergy. Rather than being discouraged, she creatively imagines watermelons as strawberries and pretends to eat them. She is also figuring things out.
Sandra Bacchi is a Brazilian photographer, based in Pittsburgh, PA. As a visual artist, she blends documentary and conceptual photography with her background in cinematography to find a cohesive conversation between the reality around her and her constant inner inquiries about life. Visual arts and storytelling have always been an integral part of Bacchi’s family dynamic, as she and her parents worked in film production in Brazil. While Sandra’s photos document her personal journey, she weaves fiction into the truths to express more open-ended storytelling. Photographers such as Angela Strassheimnd, Philip Lorca Dicorcia and Gregory Crewdson inspire Sandra’s work narrative, while Bernard and Hilda Becher, Irving Penn and Francesca Woodman contribute to her visual references.
Earning a degree in photography at Escola Panamericana de Artes (São Paulo, Brazil -1997), Sandra turned her focus to cinematography, working on short films, documentaries, and commercials, in São Paulo and New York. In 2001, Bacchi attended the Hungarian International Cinematography Workshop D.O.P., taught by Academy Award winner Vilmos Zsigmond and Laszlo Kovacs.
In 2012, Sandra moved to NYC with her family and returned to her roots in photography at International Center of Photography, attending classes with Michael Foley, Martine Fougeron, and Barbara Mensch. She has also taken continuing education classes and workshops at the School of Visual Arts, the State University of New York at Purchase, Aperture and the Museum of Modern Art.
Sandra’s work has been exhibited nationally and internationally and published in contemporary photography magazines and Zines, such as Edge of Humanity, Don’t Take Picture and Femme Fotale. In 2017, her photographs were part of group shows at The Center for Photography at Woodstock, Houston Center for photography, The Center for Fine Art Photography, A Smith Gallery, City Without Walls and PH21 Galley, among others.
Watermelons Are Not Strawberries
“When I couldn’t eat strawberries (because of food allergies), I pretended watermelons were strawberries.” – Vitória Bacchi
In Watermelons Are Not Strawberries, I seek to better understand myself and to increase my awareness of how I react to challenges related to my experiences as a mother.
My two daughters were challenged with severe food allergies and learning difficulties in their early years. In helping them to cope with their adversities, I was forced to dig into my shadows and deal with fears, frustration, shame, and guilt caused by my unknown dyslexia, and to accept the fact that I too have a food-related health condition (celiac disease).
Food allergies and learning disabilities were the starting point of my journey in challenging my fears to be different. Once I let go of the rules and expectations I created for myself, which were not working for my daughters, the whole family dynamic changed. I didn’t want them to feel the constant neurotic need to fit into the social norms, as I did my whole life. We established our own “normal” way to live our lives, creating a sense of complicity, understanding, and empathy among each other, building a stronger relationship.
Dyslexia, ADHD, food allergies and celiac disease are all connected through families’ DNA. Therefore, while I was advocating for my girls, I learned how to advocate for myself. While I was trying to understand my daughters, I deeply understood myself. In the beginning, it was a lonely path focused on trying to adapt and adjust my expectations of parenting. It turned into a life journey and artistic inquiry as I traced a connection between my childhood and my daughters’ childhood.
Watermelons Are Not Strawberries has been a quest of self-identity, where I investigate human emotions, such as anxiety, melancholy, grief, happiness, and love, through my personal experiences.
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