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. Herman 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 (2010), at Le Chateau d’Eau in Toulouse (2014), at JIMEI X ARLES International Photofestival (2016 & 2017) and at Musée de l’Elysée in Lausanne (2017). Her work is included in several art collections such as Rabobank Art Collection (NL), Ministry of Foreign Affairs (NL) and AMC Art Collection (NL). Herman was a finalist for 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. In 2020 her project Germano, about her Jewish family history, was exhibited at the Jewish History Museum in Amsterdam. Next year “Germano” will be exhibited more extensively at Kaunas Photography Gallery in Kaunas, Lithuania. Last fall Herman’s series “Touch” was exhibited at the Benaki Museum as part of Athens Photo Festival 2020. Most recently her series “Julian & Jonathan” was shown at Museum Technische Sammlungen in Dresden for the Hellerau Photography Award 2021.
About Touch – words by Sarah Mei Herman:
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, finding my models in the streets of Xiamen as well as on Xiamen University campus.
Amongst the young women I met, many were in a lesbian relationship. In China gay-sexuality is not illegal anymore but it is still unaccepted by the older generations. None of the young women I photographed are able to speak openly to their parents about their sexual preferences. This is a remarkable contradiction in this fast changing modern China. At this moment, many lesbian women have secret relationships. With my still life images in the series, I attempt to refer to this hidden and secret female universe.
Since my work period in 2014, I have revisited Xiamen several times. Each visit I meet up with the same young women again, capturing their changes over time. During these encounters I attempt to touch upon the intimate moments between my subjects and myself.
In this ongoing series four recurring young women are portrayed over time. 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.