Art

Capturing Humanity, One Photo at a Time

Tiverton artist Sally Swart uses photography to depict the struggles of life in South Africa

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Sally Swart is on a mission, traveling the globe and training her artist’s eye to the plight of the people she encounters with her breath-taking portraits of villagers in southern Africa bringing attention to their inherent humanity as captured singularly on film.

Many of her photos have been published in magazines and books, and received numerous awards internationally. Case in point: Sally’s award-winning photo entitled Silent Cry. The photo received the top honor of the Professional Photographer Association and enabled her participation in their internationally traveling gallery tour.

“I was so honored by this award for a photograph that, to me, depicted the beauty [but also] the struggle of the African people, much like the Depression-era photographs that I love so much,” she says.

Sally quite literally learned at her father’s cuffs, taking her first photo of their dog, Buddy, at age five. He always had a camera with him, both still and movie varieties. For the artist, her studio stands in homage to her dad. “I have his cameras displayed in my studio, as well as a collection of antique cameras,” she says.

Her style is most inspired by the inquisitive zeal of Great Depression-era photographers and their ability to reveal the humanity of their subjects with a raw documentary-style approach.

“They were sensitive artists who captured [realism] with black and white film. Black and white is a very honest medium” Sally explains.

As evident in Silent Cry, Sally works painstakingly to capture the expression cast through the eyes of her subjects, an endeavor that requires an extraordinary level of preparation and attention to detail.

“As a portrait artist I create heirloom canvas portraits that will be on your wall forever. They are classic art pieces that capture the essence of your child or family, which is my specialty.” In kind, Sally has a hands-on, consultative level of participation in her shoots that take her from behind the camera in order to discuss all aspects of the shoot, including clothing, colors schemes and overall style. It’s this intimately attentive approach that creates lasting relationships with her clients.

“I had a person stop me the other day in a store and ask me if I remembered her,” says Sally. “She went on to tell me that the portrait that I created of her three children 30 years ago is still above her fireplace mantel and she loves it more every day. That was an unbelievable moment; [It] caught me totally off guard. She hugged me and I cried. It means the world to me, really.”

Sally Swart’s book, Heart 2 Heart, a Lifetime of Travels to Africa, hits the shelves in 2016. With poignant and radically intimate portraits from Africa with love, it’s set to be a powerful transmission of the empathy and understanding alight in her work – face after face, page after page.

Cantin Photography
Old Cory Place
Tiverton Four Corners