The Power of Autobiography in Sarah Pabst's Photography – Urth

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For some people it’s running, for others it’s talking to people, and for Sarah Pabst it’s the click of a shutter. By creating a confronting record of her life, her camera reminds her that she’s living, even when she senses she is sleepwalking or feeling something so keenly that she can’t give it a name.

Words by
Megan Brownrigg

Photography by
Sarah Pabst

“We were struggling with our everyday life. I felt trapped, like a caged animal in a megacity. In order to fight against an overwhelming feeling of paralysis, I picked up the camera and began documenting what was around me.” – Sarah Pabst, Morning Song

Children weren’t allowed outside during the first month of lockdown in Argentina. In the heart of Buenos Aires, Sarah Pabst had recently miscarried, and had a sleepless two-and-a-half-year-old who needed air as much as she did. As a working photojournalist, Sarah’s camera armed her with special permission to venture outdoors. Bumping into a police officer with her camera and child, she argued her case that she was a single mum who needed to work.

“I lied,” she admits frankly, “I’m not saying it’s something to be proud of, but it’s what I did.”

Sarah is very much still with her husband Blas, and their journey has been a huge part of her work. Together, they’ve fallen in love, they’ve wrestled with his addiction and they’ve weathered the agony and joy of trying for children. Sarah has documented it all. Just as her colour palette viscerally knits light with dark, her photography is uncompromisingly autobiographical. “It’s quite personal” is a phrase her lips loop back to several times during our interview.

Blas in Shower

“I painted in this palette before I photographed it,” Sarah says of her deep contrasts. As a fine art student in Germany, Sarah would paint the spaces in other people’s photographs, but omit the people in the images. “I was painting a lot of doors with light outside, and dark rooms inside. I didn’t realise I was dealing with death” she offers honestly. Her grandmother had died not long before.