2016 PDN Photo Annual Multimedia Grant Winner
2015 Visura Multimedia Grant 1st place finalist: judged by Coburn Dukehart, National Geographic
2015 IPA/Lucie: Honorable Mention in eight categories: (Portrait, Culture, Photo Essay, 2x Deeper Perspective, 2x Moving Image)
2014 & 2015 New York Photo Festival Winner
2015 Seoul International Photo Festival Winner
I was born at dawn, as 'Dawn', 4:30am – that, I am sure of – as the sun was rising, in Smithtown General Hospital, Long Island, New York.
In Portugal, my fatherland, I am called 'Aurora'.
But, my mother did not raise me. My mother took me home – smuggled me in utero, across International borders – long before TSA's Advanced Imaging Technology was invented, when no one could possibly detect the made-in-Portugal-out-of-wedlock embryo she secretly hid under her dress.
I was first fostered, then adopted, by a doting Mexican immigrant migrant worker. The oldest of 14 children, Rosa had only ever learned how to 'mother', because her own was always so busy being pregnant and nursing the others . . . while fingering her rosary beads. That's how I learned to count in Spanish. But beyond 'diez' and 'Dios', Español was prohibited in our household because it was Un-American.
My adoptive father, an Italian-American cop, saved her. Married her, that is. But she wasn't able to give him children. Abuse was common among her tribe. The truth surrounding her hysterectomy remains vague. Her secret. Rosa holds many secrets.
I learned of my adoption at age five. My older, also-adopted, brother told me. (I screamed.) But he wasn't supposed to. He must have overheard a 'grown-up' conversation. Brian; the hustler. Homeless – when I’m not supporting him and his habits. Adoption was our secret; we were told to never tell.
I spent a lifetime searching – at first internally, then actively – and it's only within the past few that I have come to know my biological family. My adoptive father was a detective, after-all. He taught me well.
After locating Gaspar, my birth-father, in Portugal, he became my guide. We began retracing our biological family's footsteps, filming as a means of self-discovery (for me) and repentance (for him). The compelling stories of my family lineage – spanning generations of artists, poets, politicians, law-makers, CIA informants, boarding school bastards – historicized within a cultural context. A family legacy built from the ground up, then everything lost. Down with the revolution, chased with casks of fine Port wine.
Until now, my lineage, my language, my homeland has also been lost to me. Saudade, a uniquely Portuguese term, embodied in the culture’s uniquely Portuguese music, The Fado, describes a deep sense of loss and longing for someone or something that is absent, and the hope for its return. But with it, lurks the repressed knowledge that it may never return.
"Saudade is a uniquely Portuguese term that has no direct English translation. It describes a deep sense of loss, longing, lack, melancholy and nostalgia for someone, or something, that is absent.... Saudade is a distinct mark of Portuguese language and culture. It has been said that this, more than anything else, represents what it is to be Portuguese." – Bell, 1912