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A Personal Matter of Some Account

Spring Edition 2018
Michelle Saffran

Houston FotoFest Biennial 2018

  Scenes from the Fotofest Portfolio Walk ( me on the left )

Houston's Whitehall Hotel hosted the 18th Houston Fotofest Biennal in March.  I was fortunate to be one of over 150 photographers from all across the word who came to share their portfolios with artists, reviewers and the public.  Over the course of four packed days I met with professionals in the field of photography including museum curators, gallerists, art center representatives and various photo buyers.  The photographs you see above are from the Portfolio Walk, an evening where each registrant was given table space (very small table space I may add!) to lay out their work for informal reviews and sales to invited guests and the general public.  As you can see it was well attended.  My voice was hoarse and I was equally exhausted and exhilarated by the experience.  The Art Walk happened after a very long day of private reviews and less structured peer reviews. 

I brought twelve prints from my current and still developing series Basic Significance (examples below) and my handmade accordion fold book FLOW  (2015).  The work was met with a wide range of responses.  I met one-on-one with 17 different reviewers, most of who were helpful and sincere in their conversation.  Each review began with the invitation to "Tell me about your work."  By the end of the festival I could recite my intentions in my sleep!  What was remarkable and almost magic, was the way my understanding of the series shifted over the week. As the meetings went on I became clearer and clearer about how the work was being perceived and understood. I saw the work with fresh eyes.

Fotofest was an amazing experience.  I am grateful to all the artist's who generously shared their time and photography with me and to the reviewers who committed themselves to supporting the development and careers of us all. 

Upcoming Show


                           Being Here                                                                         Hue of Divinity
                                          from series Basic Significance color photographs (38" x 13" Saffran 2018)

The two pieces shown above will be part of "Tell Me" a group exhibit at Studio Place Arts curated by the amazing Janet Van Fleet.  The idea behind the show is how we communicate through the use of letter forms which may be implied or literal.  Put the reception date on your calendar and join me for the opening festivities - Thursday, May 24, 5:30-7:30 pm.  The show runs May 22 - June 30.  To see more from this series go to my website and see below.

New Work 
From the series Basic Significance:  (left to right)
Spatial Anxiety,  Liminal Disturbance and Hue of Divinity  color photographs ( 38" x 13"  Saffran 2018)

Regardless of what series I am working, photographing the land around me has been an ongoing part of my photographic practice.  Recently I read a Yale University public opinion survey that showed 69% of Americans believe that global warming is happening and trust scientists on the issue but only 38% of those same people believe that it will harm them personally.  I began to wonder how the land around me was being harmed.

Reading on this topic educated me to the issues surrounding the melting permafrost.  Permafrost being land that has been frozen continually for two or more consecutive years and is made up of layer upon layer of decayed plants, animals, artifacts and even humans.  Almost a quarter of all land in the Northern Hemisphere is underlaid with permafrost.  As the Earth's surface warms it causes the permafrost to melt.   This melting causes the buried matter to resurface and become exposed to air; releasing once living materials back into the present.While this backstory may be part of what sent me down the path to Basic Significance I now see my use of the environment more as a metaphor for the process of memory and how time releases our buried past into our present day to day life. 

Click here and see more of Basic Significance and more other work.

New Americans Project

Prem Bhattarais (seated) with daughter Renuka

Work on the New Americans Project continues as David French (friend, writer and project collaborator) and I get to know the Bhattarais family.  The goal of the project is to tell the story of one family's journey that started in Bhutan, through their twenty year stay in a Nepalese refugee camp and finally their move to Vermont where they have lived for the last seven years.  

Pictured above is the father of the family, Prem (51) and one of his daughters Renuka (22).  The Bhattarais family includes: Prem's wife Mana (47), his mother Duku (age unknown), daughters Monisha (11), Bahdri (20), Bahdri's daughter Blossom (2) and son Prabin (12).

David and I are grateful to have had the on-going support from Winooski photographer Dan Higgins and funding from the Vermont Community Foundation along with a generous private donation.  At one point early on in the process someone asked how long we planned work on the project and without thinking I said a year.  (Which was news to David!)  Yet it does seem that as the project has evolved we have had wonderful, yet unexpected openings to pursue avenues that have extended yet enriched the project, deepening our friendship  with everyone involved.  The photographing and interviewing may or may not take a year, but the relationships David and I have established will continue forever.

Installation Photos:  Anonymity of In Between    



Documenting the exhibition Anonymity of In Between at Axel's Gallery was a challenge.  These photographs don't begin to convey the immersive experience I contrived from photographs and artifacts. This was my first attempt at creating an instillation and I look forward to more opportunities to work in this way.  The process of pulling together all the elements engaged my interest in objects, space and place, along with the theme of autobiographical memory.

Thank you for reading and supporting my work! 

Respectfully Submitted,

My ever present loyal studio assistants: Jasper and Betsy



Copyright © 2018 Michelle Saffran, All rights reserved

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Moretown, Vermont 05660

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Michelle Saffran Photography · 30 Howes Road · Moretown, VT 05660 · USA

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