Beach Bumming, with Sarah Bodri

PapirmassINTERVIEWS

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Issue 69 artist Sarah Bodri has an impeccable eye. Her stunning and immersive images incorporate mirrors, the beach, and water, challenge the photographer’s gaze and the subjects it lingers on. The captivating results are restrained, simple and indisputably beautiful. Her inventive approach to photography is paired with the list poems (another unusual take on an old genre) of Andy McGuire.


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Portrait of artist, by Cotey Pope.

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Many of your photos are situated on sandy shores. What is it about the beach that calls to you?

I grew up next to Lake St. Clair (which turns into the Detroit River) so I’m accustomed to being in and around bodies of water, not mention inspired by them. There’s so much possibility there, for life and growth and renewal but for destruction and loss as well. It’s just such an integral part of mythology, migration and imagination. The beach is *the* point of departure and arrival. International waters are also interesting, as countries’ powers of governance are less easily discerned way out there. Water crosses and often enables transgression of extremely significant boundaries: borders. (That may seem reductive but I also bear in mind that migration via waterway is such a perilous and often deadly journey for those seeking refuge.)

It also goes without saying that people are usually more relaxed on the beach and the light is very special there, by the water- just a couple of things which really compel me to make images.

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Can you tell us more about the role of reflection in your work?

It’s just an integral part of photography and of life. To be privy to someone reflecting, like considering the world or themselves, is so beautiful and I’m so enticed by how that looks- photographing that is simultaneously exciting and very calming. Is that voyeuristic? Maybe. I also discovered that something as simple as a mirror outside of a domestic setting can be really thrilling and make people so giddy. And people are always reflecting: we have and are surface area!

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You have a background in French Literature and Women’s Studies, which is an interesting foundation for a photographer. How do you feel about portraiture and the photographer’s gaze?

Ha. There’s so much to say about the gaze of the photographer and of course, photography is infinitely problematic in so far as someone is always being objectified (on a basic human level, not necessarily an oppressive one). Maybe the portraiture I do is less so though, because the people I photograph know that I respect them and want to capture something honest and nuanced. Even if I do tend to push peoples’ boundaries when shooting, I’m very respectful about it. I don’t think I need to quote Berger or Cindy Sherman or Sontag or anything, but I think that being a feminist/ female photographer allows me to circumvent the traditionally oppressive gaze of the photographer, or master painter, or whichever man is usually depicting “women”. It also means that I’m constantly re-assessing my politics and privilege and how they play out in my work. I don’t see ‘woman’ as a monolithic category. But then there’s that whole bit about the thrill of capturing an intimate moment, so I guess I’m a bit of a non-oppressive voyeur.

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What’s your packing list for a perfect day at the beach?

Towel, books, bathing suit, coconut oil, water, snacks, planner+pen, and a sweatshirt/scarf for when the sun goes down.

 

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What is up next for you?

New work and residencies.  I guess you’ll have to check for updates and new news on the blog.

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Sarah Bodri is our September 2015 artist. See more at sarahbodri.format.com