Monday, September 17, 2018

Photography for Social Change: Telling Untold Stories with Starr Sariego

LETICIA FISHER Spinal Cord Injury, Paraplegic  Photograph by Alexandra vivas
By Starr Sariego

In the summer of 2015, I was asked if I would be interested in participating in a photo project. 
Two of the three women at the meeting have disabilities the third was a mother of a young woman with cerebral palsy.  What could I bring to their table? I was a newish photographer and mostly self-taught. I listened as the women, with no funding and only a big, beautiful idea, explained their desire to reprise a photography show done 10 years prior. My answer? Hell, yes.

The birth of the Bold Beauty Project came 10 years earlier as Shelly Baer, its founder, decided to face herself in the mirror. Literally. Shelly was born with rheumatoid arthritis and had endured many surgeries. She admits to not having looked at herself in the mirror for many, many years. She was avoiding what she then assumed to be something to avoid. Her body grew and developed and took shape in a way that caused others to stare at her. She’d had enough and did a TEDx talk. As Baer spoke she invited the audience to have a good… long look. She believed then and still does, in the beauty in disability. The TEDx Talk and The Bold Beauty Project of 2006 were turning points for her.  Shelly asked her other women friends with disabilities to collaborate with photographers and make bold and beautiful images of themselves. The 2006 show was a hit. Fast forward 10 years and Shelly was ready to do it again.
EMMA REYES Spinal Cord Injury & Arm Amputee  photograph by Maggie Steber 
Never having done this type of project before, I launched in headfirst excitedly… and naively. I started by looking for and recruiting local Miami photographers. My resources were a few kindly souls that gave me their time and names and contacts to call. They include Leica specialist, Peter Dooling, ever a great resource, Milcho and University of Miami faculty member John Van Beekum

The calls began and almost every photographer I spoke to fell in love with the idea of collaborating with a woman and making an image that would upend society’s stereotypes of women with disabilities.  The women were able to show themselves, through makeup, location, clothing and in some cases no clothing, as what they wanted others to see in them. Bold, sexy, beautiful, brave, smart, adventurous… All photographers generously donated their time and talent to make the images. 

Other work included creating a guide for the photographers as well as a licensing agreement for the group. 25 photographers needed locations, make-up artists and stylists. Their busy schedules needed coordinating with the subjects and the post photo shoot follow up was also work intensive, gathering documentation, collecting images and finding a printer/framer. Finally, a friend and I hung the show at the Bakehouse Art Complex for a November 2016 opening that drew close to 500 people.

The takeaways: the connections made were all very meaningful and at times profound. The woman being photographed, the photographer and finally the viewer were all impacted. The women's’ images were accompanied by narratives they had written. Viewing the show took time to take in. Attendees saw the image, read their words and a new understanding was made. Some were moved to tears.

For me, a new passion was born. I am committed using photography as a tool for community engagement in understanding unseen populations within our culture, specifically women. I’m currently working on The Compassion Project featuring formerly incarcerated women. These women, once having served their sentences, deserve a restoration of their rights, a safe place to live and employment. Again, the idea is to use portraiture and narratives along with an art film to change perceptions. An installation piece will allow for viewers to sit and listen to a woman tell her story of incarceration and what led up to it. 

Starr Sariego
CYNTHIA FLEISCHMANN Amputee. photograph by Starr Sariego

Leica Lounge with Starr Sariego | Thurs, Sep 20, 2018 | 7pm - 8:30pm

Free Event

Join us in the Leica Lounge on Thursday, September 20, 2018 with photographer Starr Sariego. Starr will give a presentation entitled Photography for Social Change: Telling Untold Stories. She will use The Bold Beauty Project as one example.                   372 Miracle Mile, Coral Gables, FL 33134
The Leica Lounge is a lecture series hosted by Leica Store Miami which features presentations by local photographers, editors, gallerists and educators. Held monthly, these free events are designed to create and inspire the local photography community through sharing images and exchanging ideas.
The Leica Lounge is kindly sponsored by Brooklyn Brewery. Participants will be able to sample some of their amazing craft beers during the event. Brooklyn Brewery is one of the largest craft breweries in the United States, producing a portfolio of traditional and experimental beers sure to impress any beer drinker.

About Starr:I started taking photos 10 years ago as part of my location business for the photo industry. Leaping into the next phase of my life has given me the time and focus to pursue photography on a more personal and fulfilling level.

Photography gives me the opportunity to capture a moment in time.  Emotions, connections and relationships are a vital part of what I see and who I am. For me, photography is the coupling of creative thought, intuition and action.
"When you photograph a face... you photograph the soul behind it." - Jean Luc Godard
You can see more of Starr's work here.