We at The Bee Foundation appreciate the opportunities we have to speak with other people whose lives have been impacted by brain aneurysms. Recently, we had the privilege of interviewing Rachel Elizabeth Seed, daughter of successful New York writer, editor, and producer Sheila Turner-Seed, who passed away as the result of a ruptured brain aneurysm in 1979. Rachel’s mother passed when she was only 18 months old, so she has no real memories of their short time together; however, as a successful photographer-turned-filmmaker, she has embarked on a special project. The Brooklyn-based artist is currently working on a documentary film about her search for the mother she never knew through their shared love of photography.
The Bee Foundation: What was your favorite of your mother’s interviews of famous photographers?
Rachel Seed: The most interesting one is with Henri Cartier-Bresson. Of all the photographers she interviewed, he was the most elusive and sought after. He considered my mother’s interview with him to be the best he ever gave. I also loved her interview with Cornell Capa, the founder of the International Center of Photography. My mother and he were very close, like family, and he is one of the key figures who was making things happen in the field of photography, especially in New York, at that time. I loved listening to them talk, and getting a sense of their relationship. She got him to say interesting things about his life and past, such as what it meant to be in Eastern Europe at the time when Jews were being persecuted, and how he and his family ended up in the United States.
TBF: Do you have a favorite picture she took?
RS: There are thousands of photographs, and I haven’t yet seen all of them. But there’s one of hers I really like, which is of a young Russian girl, from when she went to Russia. This girl is dressed in traditional Russian dress and she almost looks like one of those nesting dolls. My mother loved to photograph children and I think that was a special picture.
TBF: You say “I always assumed I got my interest in photography, in capturing moments and memories, through my father, Brian Seed.” But do you think your photographic style is similar to your mother’s?
RS: Not at all. It’s very different. I’m more into surrealism and really strange situations in real life. I think my mother was more interested in… we both love to photograph people, but I think her work was more about people’s experiences, when I’m more interested in psychology and the weirdness of the human experience.
TBF: When did you find out that your mother had passed away from a brain aneurysm, and what did you do to gather more information on the subject?
RS: It’s one of those things where you grow up with the knowledge from the first time you remember anything. I don’t remember the moment, specifically, that someone told me that was how she died, I always just knew. Gathering information came later in the process of making the film. In a way, the film has helped me to face certain things that I wouldn’t have pursued otherwise. For example, this year I visited Israel and met some of my mother’s cousins, and they’re from the side of the family with a lot of aneurysms and strokes – my maternal grandmother’s side. They told me more about the family history and how prevalent it was. My grandmother had seven siblings and many of them had some aneurysm or stroke and died young. My grandmother survived a stroke at 37, and her mother died in childbirth with her. Even though I knew that, hearing them talk about it made it much more real to me. Of course, why didn’t people really look into it? It sort of just happened to the family but nobody looked for how to prevent it from happening. That’s just the way it was. I’m one of the first people in our family who is looking into it in more depth to see what it actually means.
TBF: When did you first get involved in brain aneurysm awareness?
RS: This film is my first project in that area, so literally this past fall (Fall 2016). My producer, Danielle Varga, reached out to a few brain aneurysm foundations. It was really attending The Bee Foundation’s Honey Bash that I realized the greater context for the lack of awareness in our society about aneurysms.
TBF: How long do you expect the full documentary to be, and is there a planned release date?
RS: It is going to be a feature length film, exact minutes to be determined. My goal is to release the film in 2018; however, in the most immediate future, we are working to raise $100,000 so we can hire an editor to officially join our team and edit the film. So far, we’ve successfully raised $40,000 of our near term goal, mostly from grants and individual donors, but still have $60,000 to go by end of January 2017!
To learn more about the film, contact Rachel at RachelSeed@gmail.com.
TBF: What messages would you like people to take away from your experience and this film project?
RS: One of the things the film deals with is how your life can change in an instant from the loss of someone like a parent, but that doesn’t mean your life has to be over. There are things you can do to live in the moment and to live a full life despite loss and the threat of illness. One of the reasons we are interested in possibly working with The Bee Foundation is because part of its mission is about awareness, education, and outreach. As well as being a work of art, we want the film to convey a positive message about how to live in the moment, pursue your dreams, and be true to yourself.
One of the things that I’ve learned as I’ve made the film is that women in history, in terms of their work and health, have been forgotten, or not made important, or not in the books like they should be. [We can achieve attention for women’s health] by telling one woman’s story, who had an extraordinary story of success – being a great journalist in the world – whose death might have been prevented if more attention was paid to the health of women in our family. We want to bring attention and show that women’s stories need to be told and women’s health should be examined and prioritized.
Donate now to Rachel’s film project to help raise awareness of
brain aneurysms, which are more likely to impact women than men.