based in Los Angeles
Sara Swaty portfolio on Visura - a professional network to connect with photo editors and art buyers, and build photography portfolio websites. Visura members, like Sara, share photojournalism, art photography, landscape, travel photography, portraits and more. Sara has 5 projects, 36 community news posts, and 153 images shared in the photo stream.
Sara Swaty is a Los Angeles based people and portrait photographer with a BFA in Photography from Rochester Institute of Technology. Her work explores identity, gender, and race. At the Eddie...
This year was my 3rd time attending Burning Man. Although I was prepared and excited, it was my hardest Burn yet, with temperatures averaging between 95-115 degrees. My setup is simple: small pop-up shade, tent, air mattress (upgraded from a sleeping bag), suitcase, and plastic drawers--but no air conditioning. Heat exhaustion forced me to take it easy during the day, unlike past years where we adventured every day, exploring the city and the art in deep playa. Thankfully, my camp is like family and we got to know each other better over sharing pickles and hardboiled eggs--no one was ever interested in trying my raw cabbage.
Although this year was slower paced, it still felt like a dream. It is a blessing to be in a city with 70,000 strangers and feel safe and loved. Burning Man is not a luxurious vacation, but it is full of magical surprises--a place where the smallest gesture or gift brings happiness. Whether it's getting blasted with a tube or air conditioning on the way to the porta-potties decorated with Christmas wrapping paper, a lovely hand-washing on the way walking to camp from sunrise, or singing "Baby got Back" in exchange for a grilled peanut butter and jelly sandwiches from the Sammich Car--they all feel special, because someone worked their butt off to give you a little piece of joy.
The spirit of Burning Man resonates differently with everyone. I plan to continue attending as long as I am able because the feelings of freedom and safety are stronger there than anywhere else I have been. Each year feels like attending a family reunion. I love to learn and explore new things--the abundance of lectures, hands-on creating, and judgment-free options for participation are limitless. When I return to the default ("real") world, my body is worn, bruised, and sometimes bleeding, my mind is overwhelmed, and my voice is scratchy, but I would return next week if I could. This place feeds my soul.
I am excited to share that my work will be a part of the Leslie Lohman Museum's upcoming show, Expanded Visions. This museum holds a special place in my heart and was the venue for my first solow show in New York City.
The exhibition runsMarch 10, 2017 to May 21, 2017, check it out if you find yourself in Soho!
"Our inaugural exhibition in the newly renovated and vastly expanded Museum space, Expanded Visionsis a historic collection show with approximately 250 works on view. Expanded Visions mines the rich cultural coffers of the Museum's collection to trace the evolution of our institution, amid decades of shifting social conditions. The exhibition presents a survey of the collection initiated by the Museum co-founders, Charles Leslie and Fritz Lohman, who have spent more than 50 years amassing artworks that speak directly to the LGBTQ experience. Their early efforts yielded a unique archive of work that would have otherwise been lost or destroyed, which comprises the core of the Museum’s collection that now houses more than 30,000 objects."
My favorite question was about photographic philosophy. Would love to hear what your artistic philosophy is.
"Do you have a photographic philosophy?
I believe photography can create empathy between people who may never share space, so my first priority when photographing is to make people feel comfortable and remind them of their beauty. Once they are comfortable with the camera, the story will unfold in time."
After days of gloomy clouds and rainfall, the sun miraculously parted the day following Trump's Inauguration for the Women's March in Pershing Square, Los Angeles, a global rallying cry to fight for equal rights.
Yesterday was a powerful day—hearing celebrity speakers voice the same fears of being a woman that I feel every day really hit home. My fears that come with existing are cemented in my being, so I rarely voice them, or hear so many different people sharing the same sentiment. It forced me to further recognize the impact and gravity of the Trump regime. Despite the feelings of overwhelming helplessness, I remembered where I was—deep in a crowd of 750,000 strong, safe and supported, knowing that people all over the world were sharing the same experience.
Ten years ago, my mother and I embarked on a trip to France to reconnect with family. The voyage marked a new mature beginning of our relationship, as I was preparing to move away for college. Despite our loving relationship, my life path has led me far from my hometown, and I began feeling the weight of my family’s absence years ago. Time seemed to move faster. Nostalgia pummeled me every time I heard the words “St. Louis,” reminding me of everything I left behind and wondering how I could make it work.
2016 marked my mother’s retirement after a 30+ year career of teaching high school French, so we planned a trip to France and Morocco, charting new stages of our lives together.
From the moment we reached the airport, everything felt right. We spent nights laughing so hard we cried, sharing a bed recording silly Snapchat videos to send to my grandmother across the ocean. We endured darker nights clutching each other’s arms as we navigated narrow pathways in the medinas of Morocco, heavy with dinners of couscous and tagine, jumping out of the way of motorcycles, carts, and cars, desperately hunting for signs that would lead us home, cursing the guidebooks that teased us getting lost is part of the fun.
Within the chaos and the calm, the never-ending ups and downs of navigating foreign places, each other’s emotions, and the occasional hangry outburst, every day I woke up thrilled to spend the day with my mother. It was a gift to just be with Linda, the woman who passed down to me her infectious joy, positivity, and adoration of culture and language.
Shooting stills for the Netflix feature XOXO was an incredible highlight of my year. The creative and production teams behind the film were wonderful to work with and the set design, costumes, and music kept me continually inspired.
Here are some of my favorite portraits from the film, including Sarah Hyland, Chris D'Elia, Ryan Hansen, Hayley Kiyoko, and Brett DelBuono. See more at: http://www.sara-swaty.com/xoxo
Friday was the Adobe creative jam, a tournament of sorts where myself and 13 other LA-based photographers were given a theme at 7 AM to shoot and met at 5 PM to process our work. At 8 PM, we handed in 1 file for judging and came on stage to share our process.
The days leading up the challenge was spent brainstorming, scrawling in notebooks of various sizes, trying my best to prepare for an assignment that would remain a mystery until that day of the shoot. I secured my models and makeup artist in advance and adventured all over LA looking for locations and props, readying myself to rise at 6 AM the day of the shoot completely prepared.
Since I had no idea what the assignment would be, I asked myself “What is important to me right now, what do I want to communicate?” and developed a loose concept based on that, inspired by the political events that have rocked the United States. Before this election, I had never encountered the term “echo chamber” and have been ruminating on what that means.
At 7 AM, the theme “The Other Side” landed in my inbox, and by 9 PM that night, I was on stage sharing these words in front of an audience of creative professionals and judges:
The other side is the unknown, the feared, the misunderstood within ourselves and others. We all live in our own echo chambers, repeating self-inflicted truths to ourselves, cemented so firmly in our minds that we cannot begin to understand the other side.
On Saturday, November 12th, thousands of people convened in MacArthur Park to march downtown in reaction to the election of Donald Trump as the United State’s new president. Organized by Union del Barrio, it’s intent was “to send a message that LA is NOT afraid and that we will continue to organize to defend our communities from the hateful tactics of Donald Trump.”
It has been a difficult day. The sun set too early, the temperature was a record high--hello global warming!--, and there was a palpable heaviness in the air. My social media feeds; NPR channels, and conversations were identical in nature, echoing passionate sentiments of shock and solidarity.
Beginning last night, I received and sent messages with people I usually speak to only on special occasions, searching for support and clarity. Every social interaction has been laced with some kind of shared sadness, a reflective nod, sets of wandering eyes. I have been fortunate enough to not encounter any hate, but my heart is with those who are forced to endure it simply for being who they are.
But I am hopeful. There are countless individuals who have been fighting for years for equality, people who have vision for a bright future and won’t be deterred. These are the people who inspire me and give me hope.
One of these individuals is FarraKhan Shegog, who is studying to be an ordained minister, runs Young Voices with Action, a nonprofit which trains and mentors young people, and is active in the movement.
At FarraKhan’s request, we photographed at the St. Louis’ Old Courthouse, “because of its historical significance to African Americans. That spot was chosen because it represents the journey that I face. I look back and see struggle and barriers from the halls of the Courthouse. But I also look forward due to my firm belief in justice and the principles of it. That spot was chosen for the mere fact that Dred Scot decision decided the fate of African Americans up to today.”
Every time I go home to St. Louis, I meet up with Eli to photograph and catch up for my ongoing project In Between & Outside. I've been photographing Eli since 2012, beginning shortly after he began transitioning from female to male.
XOXO is out on Netflix! Excited to share that I had the opportunity to capture stills for this beautiful film. It truly takes a family to make a movie. I feel blessed to have worked with such wonderful creatives.
National Geographic Senior Photo Editor Elizabeth Krist's Visura Instagram takeover begins tomorrow! Beginning tomorrow, she will be sharing projects from the following 10 photographers selected from the 2016 Visura Instagram Open Call: Sara Swaty, Solmaz Daryani, Anna Boyiazis, Jorge Santiago, Furkan Temir, Arthur Nazaryan, Hector Emanuel, Nima Taradji, Amy Sacka, and Rebecca Conway.
I'm thankful and excited to share that Hayley to Harrison will be featured on Sunday, May 8th.
Krist's career is nothing short of amazing. While at National Geographic, Elizabeth curated the Women of Vision exhibition and book and has judged competitions for Critical Mass, the State Department, PDN, Aftermath, and the RFK Journalism Awards. She has won awards from POYi, Overseas Press Club, and Communication Arts. Elizabeth has taught workshops in Santa Fe and has served on the board of the Eddie Adams Workshop.
Thank you to Visura and Elizabeth for sharing Harrison's story and featuring the work.
Photo Independent ("the only international art fair bridging the gap between those who love and collect photography and the artists who make it") has always been a source of inspiration for me. Seeing new creative work and experimentation with imagery from artists near and far is the best way to spend a weekend. This year, I am excited to announce that I was a part of the event with "Connections"--a multimedia video presentation curated by Scott Thode and presented by Visura, MOPLA, and the Lucie Foundation.
"Connections" highlights a select group of Visura photographers and how they see the world in a physical, emotional, spiritual and intellectual way. Each story has a unique point of view and is very personal, very real, but can also be very abstract.
See the video project here: http://visura.co/exhibitions/mopla2016
My first assignment published by Reuters was a Donald Trump rally in my hometown of St. Louis, Missouri. As I mentally prepared for the day, I envisioned the photographs I would take. In addition to a 24–70 lens, I also brought an 85mm, imagining beautiful portraits of Trump supporters. As I scanned the hundreds of people waiting in line that weaved around blocks surrounding the Peabody Opera House, I saw loud shirts with open mouths decorated the chests of adolescent boys, gleaming buttons with colorful images of mushroom clouds were adorned on women’s bright caps, and I almost ran into a group of people wearing garb of Hillary Clinton’s face behind bars.
It was an incredible climate of people — on one side of me, there was a group of protestors standing together clutching signs that say “Muslims are our friends,” “Make America gay again,” and “Black lives matter.” On the other side were teen girls and boys wearing shirts that proudly declare “MENINIST,” families sporting caps that proclaimed “Make America Great Again,” and people who cheered at Trump’s main talking points: trade, the wall, and “get ’em out of here!”
While I saw different heated conversations and minor scuffles throughout the day, nothing prepared me for capturing the photograph of Anthony Cage. I followed the sounds of screaming and sobbing, running on the heels of policemen when I saw Cage laying on the ground, blood in between his teeth and spots on the pavement. I knelt down, feeling pressure on my back and sides from people pushing me, and began photographing the chaotic scene.
To witness violence so closely, to see someone in pain, with only your camera as a means of defense brings up a mix of emotions. Even though I have read the articles, and seen the footage from other Trump rallies, nothing could have prepared me for Cage’s eyes looking straight into the lens and witnessing pain emanating from his body.
Today is the 16th Transgender Day of Remembrance. On November 20th, we honor and remember the lives that have been lost. Only 81 deaths have been reported this year, and among those, most have been women of color. This day is very powerful for me. I think about my friends, about the stories I’ve been blessed to share, and the hatred and oppression they face. I reflect on the ignorance and violence they endure, and am inspired by their strength and poise.
Since graduating from college, I have continued learning through photography by sharing people’s stories. When I first began In Between & Outside in 2010, I was inspired by a cultural anthropology course that concentrated on different genders and cultural practices all around the world. Learning about the incredibly different ways cultures approach gender identity blew my mind. I lifted my veil of ethnocentrism and began exploring the gender binary through photography. It was through this that I learned about the transgender community and the countless gender identities that are not visible in mainstream society.
Today, I ask you to take a moment to empathize, to put yourself in someone else’s shoes. Imagine what it would be like to be threatened and hurt for jut being yourself. Everyone is fighting their own battle.
Wednesday, October 21, 2015
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Last week, I attended the Eddie Adams Workshop, which was an incredible, life changing experience. The lectures were inspiring and motivating, the portfolio reviews were invaluable, but I was most excited by the community of passionate photographers, editors, and artists who welcomed us with open arms.
Through this experience, I had the opportunity to share Hayley to Harrison, a personal project that follows follows one transgender individual on his journey of transitioning from female to male. I began photographing Harrison in 2011 and have been documenting him since.
Unbeknownst to me, the workshop ended with an awards ceremony, gifting people with assignments for prestigious publications, camera equipment, and other awards. It was here I was given my first trophy--an award for Hayley to Harrison. I am excited to announce that Reuters will be publishing the story and helping me edit the past 4 years of images. Can't wait to share the final product with you! Thank you to Eddie Adams, and all of the people who helped make the workshop possible - the Black Team, White Team, photographers, editors, producers, techs, and countless others that dedicated their time to helping us!
The Eddie Adams workshop is “an intense four-day gathering of the top photography professionals, along with 100 carefully selected students.” Intense doesn’t begin to describe it. Our days were filled with photography assignments, lectures, critiques, and portfolio reviews, leaving us only 1-3 hours to sleep per night—if we were lucky.
99 others and myself arrived at the Barn in Jeffersonville, NY, on a rainy Friday afternoon and were immediately greeted by cameras clicking, buzzing drones overhead, and dozens of people cheering and yelling, “Welcome!” “Congratulations!”, giving out high fives and waves, all genuinely excited to see you.
I didn’t know what to think. Was this really happening?? My brain flashed back to being greeted at Burning Man by the same level of excitement, love, and pure joy just at the sight of you simply being there.
Within a few minutes of meeting our assigned teams, Jimmy Colton had already given us an assignment. We were asked to stand up and say “I love you” to everyone around us—iconic photographers, beloved photo editors, and strangers that would soon become our friends, bonded by fatigue, joy, and passion.
I embraced my new family, Team Turquoise: Ruth Fremson, Pulitzer prize winning NYT photographer and team lead; Colin Crawford, LA Times photo editor –and Turquoise’s personal editor/cheerleader; portrait photographer and team tech, Pete Kiehart, and photojournalist Eric Thayer, our fearless producer. For a few minutes, despite the trees and running water, it felt like being on the playa again, love echoing all over the barn.
The first night consisted of inspiring lectures from photographers beginning with John Stanmeyer, a National Geographic photographer--and the most poetic photojournalist I have ever witnessed. His animated language, passion, and flow of thoughts were awe-inspiring. I had never heard anyone speak of photographing tragedy the same way he did, he admits to having “…a beautiful obsession with the poetry of war and communication.” Stanmeyer also gave me the ironic gift of calm with his quote: “If you don’t have anxiety, you can’t be creative.”
David Guttenfelder & Ruddy Roye showed me the exciting power of the smartphone camera, a refreshing reminder when the rest of the world is telling you that the smartphone has ruined the photography industry. I confess, I have a love hate relationship with my phone--I hate that I love it. I love that it gives me the power of silence, discretion, and access and hate that my other cameras can’t compete with that. But Roye and Guttenfelder taught me to embrace this new challenge, be empowered by it, and take advantage of my tools.
But the most impressionable part of the workshop was being welcomed into this amazing and growing community of like-minded artists—passionate, caring, and creative people who all have incredible wisdom and vision to offer. Speaking candidly with artists without competition and tension weighing on us was so freeing.
On the last night, optimism was flowing through my body, and as I looked around at all of the smiling faces, I realized even our joy was united:
Burning Man is impossible to describe. It's an incredible artistic experiment where around 70,000 people choose to live in the desert for a week and participate as art by constructing a temporary city. It's a place where people are given the freedom to release themselves and be whoever they want. Random hugs are commonplace, the only vehicles allowed to drive are transformed into "artcars", taking the shape of a Sheep or Discofish, no money is expected or exchanged, and everything is art.
This was my first year, and I can't wait to go back.
One year has passed since the shooting of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri. On August 9th, 2014, an unarmed black man was shot and killed blocks away from his grandmother’s house in his own neighborhood. While details of the incident will forever be a mystery, the facts remain: Michael Brown’s body laid face down in a pool of blood on Canfield Drive, a small residential street, for 4 1/2 hours without medical attention or care, and his death was ruled as a homicide. In March of 2015, The Justice Department released a 105 page report investigating the Ferguson Police Department detailing civil rights violations, particularly abusing the 1st and 4th amendment, with evidence of deep racial bias.
In the wake of a tragedy, a national movement was born. Ferguson, a suburb of St. Louis, Missouri and Michael Brown became internationally recognized names in mere days, on the tongues of protestors from the Midwest to East, West, and beyond.
The shooting of Michael Brown and police brutality is, unfortunately, not a new story—but the community of individuals who spoke out against this unjust act made it into an unforgettable one. Their relentless passion, endurance, and dedication for justice and reform created ripples throughout the country. Hashtags propelled the movement, organizations were founded and fueled by the memory of Brown, and people from all walks of life marched together with their hands up. The veil of institutionalized racism was lifted and discussed among privileged communities who previously dismissed such violent acts as isolated incidents. International news organizations covered the events, condemning entrenched racism upheld in the United States justice system and exposing how deep systemic discrimination has rooted itself socially, culturally, and politically.
Fragments of Ferguson recognizes the community of individuals who refused to be silent and stand down in the face of injustice. It takes communities and people from all walks of life to make change: activists on the streets and on social media, politicians, lawyers, artists, clergy, writers, musicians, and many more. People young and old, combining forces in the streets, courts, and online, no one can fight injustice alone.
I've spent the past 25 days traveling around Israel and Turkey, with a too-brief stop in NYC and am excited to share new work with you all. Israel was a beautiful place that excited and challenged me, as I learned to embrace a Jewish identity that was once alien.
Intimate listening session for Tef Poe's new album War Machine 3 at Purple Rain Studios. Guests included Rosa Clemente, journalist, hip-hop activist. and vice presidential running mate of 2008 Green Party Presidential candidate Cynthia McKinne, Patrisse Cullors, co founder of #BlackLivesMatter, Damon Turner, founder of GREEDY City and of Bulletproof, and Maytha Alhassen.
Ushering in a new era of hip hop--music with a message.
Lightning in a Bottle is not your typical festival-- there is an abundance of art, education, and an incredible feeling of closeness and community just by being present. For four days and four nights, lights and dust fill the air, and the music never stops.
In the wake of a tragedy, a movement was born. Ferguson, a small suburb in St. Louis, became a name known all over the world. The shooting of Michael Brown and police brutality is, unfortunately, not a new story—but the community of individuals inspired by this unjust act made it into an unforgettable one. Their passion, endurance, and dedication created ripples throughout the country. Hashtags propelled the movement, organizations found their footing, and people from all walks of life marched together with their hands up, voices raised against racism and hatred.
It takes a community to make change: activists, politicians, lawyers, artists, clergy, writers, and so on. Young and old, combining forces in the streets, courts, and on the internet, no one can fight injustice alone.
I returned home to St. Louis to photograph the leaders at the forefront of the movement, all contributing in their own unique way. Fragments of Ferguson recognizes the community who refused to stand down in the face of injustice.
Maria Chappelle-Nadal is state senator from University City, Missouri, and is one of the first politicians to respond after the shooting of Michael Brown.
"Everyone has a role in this movement. For 15 years, I've worked in state government and have been a victim of institutional racism and have said nothing. It was my heart that led me on the streets, and now I have to do the job I was elected to do. I have to be a legislator."
#handadventures is a visual diary that explores light, color, and texture. Here I have immortalized these ephemeral moments of how the light painted itself perfectly, the way the waves crashed, or the pursuit of an adventure that I couldn’t allow myself to forget. Through capturing these images, and seeing them again and again—a self inflicted déjà vu— they have embedded themselves in my mind as an ideal representation of a single day, hour or second. The hand acts as a canvas, an extension of self that expresses emotion through gesture, and goes wherever it pleases. These moments are perfect memories—fractured instances of beautiful days that capture the spirit and mood of that second. My #handadventures serve as both a journal and personal meditation. They are reminders of the simple beauty you can always find.