-- Written by Sarah Mei Herman
In my work I explore relationships and intimacy between people. The closeness between them or what sets them apart, and the necessity of physical proximity to others. I often focus on the intimacy within the family, with a special interest in sibling relationships, which partly comes from the fact that I grew up without and as a child I always wondered what it would be like to have a brother or sister. Now as an adult, I find myself observing siblings, repeatedly photographing them; trying to get a closer understanding of what this familial intimacy means.
Growing up is an important theme in my work, mainly focusing on young adolescents; on their constant state of becoming; trying to capture the fleeting beauty of the continual changes they go through on their way to adulthood. Recurring themes in my work are the transitions and continual changes young people go through on their way to adulthood. I am drawn to the intensity, vulnerability and sometimes loneliness of these stages. An equally recurring theme is the grey area between friendship and love, and the ambiguity of relationships in certain stages of life.
I started the series "Touch" during a four-month artist in residence at The Chinese European Art Center in Xiamen. I was curious as to the differences but also at things that are universally recognizable: the things that tie people together and the meaning of friendship and love.
When I first arrived in Xiamen I felt completely lost in this to me unknown city, where I wasn’t able t speak the language nor read any signs. It took a bit of time to find my way around and prepare things before leaving my apartment, like having my address written down in Chinese, as well as the place I was heading. The first few weeks I spent most of my time walking and wondering around, taking busses to unknown places and getting lost. My apartment was right on the beach and I loved walking past the sea just before sunset when the beach was full of young couples sitting closely together, or taking photographs of each other (or of them selves). I noticed that people clearly showed that they were a couple in particular ways: like the boy always carries the girl’s handbag for example. But I never caught anyone kiss in public.
After a while I started to feel more at home and more comfortable approaching subjects for my project. I photographed several young people (mostly girls) and their intimate relationships, finding my subjects on the beach, in the streets of Xiamen and at the university campus. With some of them I built up a closer friendship photographing them repeatedly over time. Since my four-month work period three years ago, I got the possibility to return to Xiamen three times. The first time was in 2015 to teach a workshop there at Xiamen Art College, and then again in November 2016 because my work was exhibited at Jimei x Arles International Photofestival 2016. The last time I was there was very recently: in November 2017, again for the Jimei x Arles Festival, this time my work was part of the 2017 edition. Each visit I meet up with some of the same girls again, capturing their changes over time. Going back to the same subject repeatedly is an important aspect in almost al my work. During these encounters I attempt to touch upon the intimate moments of proximity between my subjects and me.
This way the series “Touch” has become an ongoing project in which I photograph the same people over a longer period of time. I feel privileged that these subjects are willing to share their intimacy with me.
More information: www.sarahmeiherman.nl