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MANILA, Philippines - For the last 8 years, Sara Black has been working with images. She takes the position behind the camera — and seems to enjoy the perspective from there.
The cliché often told is that a picture is worth a thousand words, but storytellers know better:
A picture is only worth the story it is able to tell.
Most of Sara’s professional work has been culled under the fashion and beauty categories, with a bias for portraits. “I do love shooting people,” she enthuses.
We, Love is Sara’s latest book. Here, she is offering numerous, varied stories. It specifically zeroes in on relationships, presenting portraits of pairs of individuals.
“I came up with a list of subjects which I felt would define the kind of love that I wanted to portray,” Sara reveals to Rappler. “I find that there is a lot of beauty in the dysfunction of love. “
There is a casual feel to her portraits, as opposed to glamorized or stylized shots of her more commercial work; this imbibes a certain level of intimacy. Each image has accompanying text, the subjects’ words on the page to complete the story.
“I wanted to maintain the authenticity and the integrity of what they said and leave as much of myself out of it," Sara explains. “I wanted the readers to feel like they could be there at that moment that the photograph was taken and the subjects could be speaking to them directly.”
There are quotes but no descriptions, no setting of the scene, no explanation of one’s relationship to the other. It can be a bit of an imposition: How does one navigate through all this territory?
One dives into the book with a commitment to seek the ideas, the sentiments, the truths, the pains and the joys. There’s a lot to uncover with the range of subject matter — some very familiar pairs, some unexpected discoveries, others are strangers who allow us to intrude, and even those whose partners have passed on.
Sara says, “I don't believe in spoonfeeding readers. Then, you would dictate what kind of experience they should have, or what their interpretation should be of what they've seen or read.
"The book also plays on our prejudices when we view others who love — for some readers, they may feel ambiguous as to whether to feel empathy or disgust as, for instance, in one of the pairs that portray a gay relationship. Hopefully not; but who knows how people feel in this judgmental society!
"Nevertheless, it's up to the reader to decide how they want to define the relationship on their own terms.”
The featured individuals are from all walks of life — society, showbiz, politics and the Juans on the street.
“That's the other thing I really wanted to portray — that no matter what background [we are from], we are all the same. So, the choice of subjects was very carefully orchestrated!” Sara laughs. “I wanted the pairs to speak to each other and resonate.”
There are mothers and children, friendships of various shapes and sizes, siblings. In We, Love, these commonplace relationships exhibit the complexities that color human connections, no matter who they are.
Love, in all its noble nature, is never simple — the book affirms.
The project also reveals Sara’s viewpoint on love an on life as she “[tries] to make sense of the world. The more I observe, I really see that love is the most powerful force in our lives; not wealth or power, fame or fortune. It sounds so cliché, but if you read the book, the way love is portrayed, it's so far from the pretty love that is all too often romanticized.
"This book presents love in its reality — how it is beautiful in spite of its dark and sometimes painful nature."
The final product is a raw collection of genuine love. For the reader, it may be a jarring experience — to be pushed to be an observer — a very patient one — who has to listen carefully, discern the nuances, take chances into some unknown.
There is no guarantee that we will resonate with each and every story — not instantly, anyway — but most likely, there can be some very impactful impressions.
But just like any other relationship, it takes work to find the goodness in each one.
Through We, Love, each of these people has already met us midway.
Here are some more photos from the book:
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