Focus on Self-Portraiture: Sara J. Winston
I first encountered the work of Sara J. Winston on Instagram. I saw that she was a new mother, like me, and that she had chronic illness, like me. Anyone who has had to sit through hours of infusions recognizes the hand and needle shots. I tried to photograph them for years but was never able to do anything as skillfully or beautifully as she does. Sara has a wonderful mastery of light and composition, creating photographs imbued with soft melancholy, subtle humor, and strong presence. I never get the feeling that she is performing, only that she is quietly recording and letting her life speak for itself. This is no easy task in self-portraiture. She posted a photo recently from a body of work made with a point and shoot camera while her child was a newborn, and I knew I had to see more. They are direct and honest, portraying the daily moments with an infant where nothing happens and everything happens. The routine becomes extraordinary through her lens. The photographs with her mother are especially impressive, not only for their execution but for their evocative suggestion; any new mother looking at these will read something of her own story in them. I look forward to watching Sara and this series grow.
Sara J. Winston is a New York-based artist who uses photography, writing, and the book form to describe and respond to chronic illness and its impact on the body, mind, nervous system, and family. Winston is the author of four photobooks, among them A Lick and a Promise published by Candor Arts in 2017 and Homesick published by Zatara Press in 2015. Her work is held in public collections internationally, including the Center for Creative Photography in Tucson, Arizona, the Tate Library and Archive in London, and the Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library at Yale University. Sara received a MFA in Photography from Columbia College Chicago in 2014. Instagram @sarajwinston
When I became a mother in 2019 I began to turn the camera on myself and my child in a way that I hadn’t explored before. Shortly after my daughter was born I had a Multiple Sclerosis flare that impacted the strength and control of my upper body. At that time I began to document my daughter and myself in order to see the two of us more clearly beyond the challenges of those days of caretaking. The process of making self-portraiture has continued beyond that period and become an expanding archive; a nearly daily practice that includes tableaus with my mother, my partner, and myself alone.
As a chronically ill person I have often looked to document the world close to me in order to visualize and contemplate the speculative and erratic nature of my illness, it’s unknown causes, and methods of biomedical intervention I have undergone to quell symptoms. In parenthood my curiosity and concern has evolved as I now wonder about matrilineal inheritance, something that is difficult to anticipate, articulate, or explain in words, or pictures, alone. – Sara J. Winston
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