Sandra Bacchi – Watermelons Are Not Strawberries

Review by  Gerhard Clausing

Raising kids is hard even without additional challenges, such as multiple food allergies and some learning difficulties. When these are added to a mother’s slate, the task can seem more than overwhelming, much worse than endless piles of dishes and pots and pans in the kitchen. Yet Sandra Bacchi not only successfully raised two marvelous daughters while facing these major challenges, but also got them to collaborate in creating the images in this photobook that allow us to share the whole story, from the emotional turmoil and anguish to the progress they made in finding solutions and acceptance.

This photobook is an excellent example of how to use photography to develop a visual narrative that succeeds in sharing feelings with the viewer. We see images of foods that are contraindicated; other images show the children’s attempt to lead their daily lives and to work within the boundaries that are set by the dietary restrictions and other challenges. Throughout the sequence of some 50 pictures, we sense the role and presence of the ever-vigilant mother, Sandra Bacchi, who is the conduit for the continuity of life for all three individuals. This is similar to the semi-visible mother referred to by Sarah Kennel in her essay, which discusses, among other things, long-exposure photographs involving mothers in the past, done for different reasons. It should be noted that in the present narrative the mother figure also stays on the periphery – the children are primary.

In a certain way, the process of long exposures is replicated by the approach of this book. The images are all black and white; thus, we pay close attention to the moods, the gestures, and the general situations as depicted in the particular shots. Only the cover of the book gives us a hint at the sweet fruit flavors the kids are craving. The very dynamic and well-composed photographs are presented separately on double-page spreads and printed on extra heavy stock, which is also a tactile way of having us share the gravity of the situation.

The sequencing of pictures has been given careful attention, and thus we can follow a certain amount of progress as it happens in regard to the individuals finding solutions and enjoying life regardless of what the shortcomings might be. The images reflect some moments of discontinuity by showing reflections, interrupted surfaces, and deep shadows. When you can’t eat strawberries, watermelons may have to do, and may come to be regarded as equally delicious and desirable. As the book progresses, the images seem more optimistic, reflecting what we sense is a more light-hearted mood and a sense of hope and greater purpose.

This photobook is a very successful unified approach to a serious subject, using a relatively playful method for getting us involved and keeping our interest. It should be studied as a superb model for presenting such a shared journey as a collaborative effort in an enjoyable and attractive manner.


Gerhard (Gerry) Clausing, Associate Editor of the PhotoBook Journal, is an author and photographer from Southern California.


Sandra Bacchi – Watermelons Are Not Strawberries

Photographer:  Sandra Bacchi (born in Brazil; lives in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, USA)

Publisher:  Yoffy Press, Atlanta, Georgia; © 2021

Essay:  Sarah Kennel

Language:  English

Hardback with illustrated cloth cover; 108 pages, unpaginated; 8.25 x 10.75 inches (21 x 27.5 cm); printed in the Netherlands by Wilco Art Books; ISBN 978-1-949608-21-2

Photobook Designer:  Jennifer Yoffy


Articles and photographs published in the PhotoBook Journal may not be reproduced without the permission of the PhotoBook Journal staff and the photographer(s). All images, texts, and designs are under copyright by the authors and publishers.

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