"My show would not be a show without Sabrina. She is the most important woman that I know in my life," said Perez, adding, "She is very special in my heart and so I knew she had to be part of the show." Cohen, along with many of the other women featured in the show, will be on hand this coming Friday at the kickoff reception at the Miami Beach Botanical Garden.
Cohen, 34, has been confined to a wheelchair since she suffered a spinal cord injury in a car accident 20 years ago. But, said Perez, "When I think about Sabrina, I don’t think about disability; I think about ability. Sabrina is able to do so many things, so I am delighted that I had the opportunity to demonstrate this by including her."
Perez asked that his subjects guide him in their choice of activities. Cohen was photographed on Lincoln Road, the city's famous pedestrian mall, and also at the park at the New World Center, the home of the New World Symphony, where Cohen is a frequent patron. But she also participated in a group photo shoot at a local beach, which was the most symbolic to her.
Ever since she was paralyzed at the age of 14, Sabrina has been barred from the sand because the City of Miami Beach does not have any beaches that allow for full wheelchair access. However, her foundation, the Sabrina Cohen Foundation is working with the City of Miami Beach to open the first fully accessible beach in the State of Florida. It will be located just a few blocks from where Perez's final shoot took place. The shoot involved 20 of the women, who were photographed in white, enjoying the sand and dipping their feet into the ocean.
"Although it was frustrating to have to stop my wheelchair at the edge of the sand and watch as everyone headed on to sand, I am happy because I know that the day is finally coming when I'll be able to join in," said Cohen.
Cohen recently won a prestigious Miami Foundation grant, which will pay for enhancements to the new accessible beach. In addition, the Sabrina Cohen Foundation is launching an initiative to create an adaptive fitness center and playground, also in keeping with its mission to improve life for the disabled.
Over the past week, Perez's upcoming photography show has received national attention and promises to be one of Miami Beach's most anticipated summer events. The show features 128 images featuring the women. Perez shot the digital images in black-and-white. He did no retouching to demonstrate his point that women are naturally beautiful.
All of the images will be projected onto a large screen during the reception with several 16x24 printed images on display. The images, as well as a coffee table book containing them, will be available for purchase. The opening night reception will be the only opportunity to see the entire collection. The printed photographs will remain on display at the botanical garden until the end of the exhibit, which is Friday, August 8.
This is Perez’s fourth show and his most ambitious. He currently serves as the staff photographer for MiamiArtzine.com and the local area staff photographer for EDGEMiami.com, and he formerly served staff photographer for WIRE magazine for several years. His photographs have appeared in the Miami Herald, Social Miami, Examiner.com, Mark’s List, Luxury Guide, Miami Beach News, Extra Extra, Art Blog Miami, El Diario Argentino and several other publications.
The opening reception on Friday, July 25 is from 6 p.m. to 10 p.m., and will also feature music, refreshments, a raffle and a silent auction. Proceeds from the silent auction will be donated to the Sabrina Cohen Foundation. Guests are requested to wear black and/or white attire. The event is free and open to the public.
More info: Miami Beach Botanical Garden