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Photographs reveal a grandmother's secret passions

When Sara Macel first cracked open her grandmother’s old suitcase, the photographer discovered stacks of images and unprinted negatives that revealed a secret postwar journey: a trip to Hollywood.

What Macel found in the long-forgotten suitcase were snapshots from Carolyn Hermann’s life before marriage, a carefree existence amid South Florida’s beachside motels and windswept palms. The images, taken in the mid-1940s, show a fascination with photography that Macel never realized her grandmother possessed. It also exposed a possible secret romance with a handsome priest named Father Jim, who later became the family’s priest.

So Macel, who lives in Brooklyn, retraced her grandmother’s footsteps from her native New Jersey to the Broward city, snapping photographs along the way, for the solo exhibition “What Did the Deep Sea Say,” opening Friday, May 4, at Bailey Contemporary Arts in Pompano Beach.

“She really took beautiful photographs. She never did that after she started her family,” Macel says. “We all have secret desires and memories that we keep in the quiet of our hearts.”

Macel’s exhibit features images of Hermann’s blue, hard-shell suitcase, her midcentury Hollywood home on Monroe Street and a shirtless Father Jim at the beach. “Deep Sea” also contains Macel’s self-portraits, along with photos of her mother, as she revisits her grandmother’s old haunts.

Macel says depicting three generations of women helps bridge the past and present, reflecting “on the inner lives and desires of women from […] different stages of life.”

When: Friday, May 4, through June 26 (opening reception: 6-9 p.m. May 4)

Where: Bailey Contemporary Arts, 41 NE First St., Pompano Beach

­­­Cost: Free

Contact: 954-284-0141 or BaileyArts.org

pvalys@southflorida.com or 954-356-4364

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