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East Village Photographer's Sickness Inspires Photo Project

By Serena Solomon | December 21, 2012 1:58pm

EAST VILLAGE — After a decade of ailing health — diabetes followed by a brain tumor that caused seizures and slurred speech — Sarah Prescott began to relate to the decrepit bikes she found abandoned along city streets.

"Every time they cut into me, or I was in the hospital, every time they were removing something from me, I felt like those bikes," said Prescott, a 52-year-old East Village resident and photographer.

Identifying with the mangled and almost unrecognizable objects often found still chained to sign posts and railings gave Prescott inspiration for her photographic expressions. To capture this, and to reach others with similar survival stories, Prescott began compiling her images and words into a book and exhibition entitled "Get Paused."

She is currently nearing her goal on the crowd-funding site Kickstarter to get the piece published.

"The project took on a life of its own every time something happened to me," said Prescott, who teaches at the International Center for Photography and worked as a props master in the film industry before becoming ill.

As of Friday, the Kickstarter campaign has eight days left to reach its $7,000 goal. So far, about $5,500 has been pledged by 69 people backing the project. The funding will allow Prescott to make prints for her planned exhibition and complete the book by paying an editor and a publisher.

"If I didn't 'Get Paused,' I would have walked past these images and not noticed them," she said, of how becoming ill caused her to slow down and take more notice of her surroundings.

Documenting the derelict bike phenomenon — which seems especially prevalent in the East Village — was one of the things she noticed.

"How many of us have locked up a bike only to come back and find the seat missing, the tires gone, or various other parts removed?" wrote Prescott, on her Kickstarter page. "Sometimes the whole bike is gone and only the mangled lock remains."

When she got ill, the bikes came to personify Prescott in her mind, giving the images a whole new meaning.

"I had never attached a story to it, which was really personal and really difficult to do," said Prescott, of the writings that accompany her images. "I would rather live in this private art world of just producing art, but I think [telling the story] really helps other people."

Along with compiling the images of bikes, Prescott is adding two other series of photos called "Rust in Bloom" and "Hold On" that also relate to her health. 

"Rust in Bloom" shows the beauty that can be found in rust, and "Hold On" features a sequence of reflections found in water or on building glass, such as one taken in Seattle that bears a likeness to Edvard Much's famous painting "The Scream." 

"Living with multiple autoimmune problems," she said, "some days you just want to scream."