Sarah Mei Herman studied photography at the Royal Academy of Fine Art in The Hague, from which she received her BA in 2005. In 2010 she completed her MA in Photography at The Royal College of Art in London. Sarah Mei Herman has received several grants from Mondriaan Fund, Prins Bernard Cultuur Fund and Amsterdam Fund for the Arts. Her work has been shown internationally, among others at The National Portrait Gallery in London, Le Chateau d’Eau in Toulouse, JIMEI X ARLES International Photo festival 2016/2017 and at Musée de l’Elysée in Lausanne, Switzerland. Herman was a finalist at Hyères Festival of Fashion and Photography 2018 where she received the American Vintage Photography Prize 2018. That same year she also won the Rabobank Dutch National Portrait Prize 2018. In 2020 her project Germano, about her Jewish family history, was exhibited at the Jewish History Museum in Amsterdam, and most recently her series Touch was exhibited at the Benaki Museum in Athens as part of Athens Photo Festival 2020. Herman’s series “Julian & Jonathan” will be presented at Hellerau Photography Award 2021 in Dresden.
Herman explores the relationships and intimacy between people, what brings them together or sets them apart and how physical proximity to others is a necessity in these relationships. Throughout her work Herman has explored the gray area between friendship and love, and the constant state of becoming as young adults navigate the ambiguity of relationships into adulthood.
I started this series in 2014 during a four-month artist in residence in the Chinese coastal city-island Xiamen. Instead of focusing on the cultural differences, I wanted to research the things that are universally recognizable: the meaning of friendship and love. I started photographing several young adults, primarily women, and their intimate relationships. I found some of my models in the streets of Xiamen, but most of them at the Xiamen University campus.
Since my work period in 2014, I have revisited Xiamen several times. Each visit I met up with some of the same young women again, capturing their changes over time. With some of them I built up a closer friendship, which allowed me to photograph them repeatedly. During these encounters I not only attempted to touch upon the intimate moments between my subjects, yet also, upon the proximity between the subjects an myself.
In this ongoing series four recurring young women are portrayed over time: Haiqing, Linli, Xiaoli and Liyao. They are all connected with each other, since they studied at the same university. Fortuitously in the past years, three of them moved to Europe – to The Netherlands and Germany, which gives me the opportunity to continue to photograph them. In this body of work, my observations of these fascinating young women and their relationships, became part of a mosaic narrative.
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