These photos were taken on the occasion of my grandfather's 80th birthday in Atlanta, Georgia. Growing up in New York, almost 900 miles from Atlanta, where the rest of my family is from, has endowed me with a sense of alienation.
During the Depression Era, my grandparents' families left Georgia in favor of northern industrial cities like New York and Detroit, not unlike many other African-American families from that time who made the long journey to the North in search of economic stability and equality. In the early '80s, a job opportunity at Georgia State University and the idea of a "new South" devoid of racism propelled my grandparents' decision to return to the suburbs of Atlanta with my mother and her elder brother.
Both my mother and grandfather are artists. In the past I have been hesitant to take out my camera at family events because I don't want to be perceived as blindly following in their footsteps. I am young and still learning where my interests lie; I am unsure if I think of myself as an artist. But this was a special event, and recording it was more important than people's perceptions of me, even if they are my family.
Aside from wanting to document the achievement of my grandfather making it to 80 years old, this project was driven by the feeling of isolation that comes simply from being physically distant from those you love. Through these images, I am trying to understand my place within this cast of characters, beyond the one created by blood.
Octavia Bürgel is 18 years old and a first-year student at Oberlin College.
Stay In The Know
Marie Claire email subscribers get intel on fashion and beauty trends, hot-off-the-press celebrity news, and more. Sign up here.
Rachel Zegler and Halle Bailey on Dealing With Trolls as Modern-Day Disney Princesses
"It’s choosing to be present and know that they’re probably just having a really hard day. And I’m putting out a movie."
By Quinci LeGardye
Kendall Jenner in Phoebe Philo Is Luxury with a Capital L
The sum total of her outfit is approximately six months of my rent.
By India Roby
Kaia Gerber's "Off-Duty Librarian" Look Is a Win for Nerds Everywhere
Bookworms, this one is for you.
By Melony Forcier
Of Murder and Motherhood
Their children are gone but these women are united in their fight for justice and answers.
By Katya Cengel
60 Gifts for Mom She'll Truly Love
From creature comforts to luxe indulgences.
By Sara Holzman
'Skye Falling' Deserves a Spot on Your Summer Reading List
In July, Marie Claire read Mia McKenzie's 'Skye Falling.' See what the #ReadWithMC community thought about the book here.
By Marie Claire
Adria Biles, Simone Biles' Sister, Is a Former Gymnast and Simone's Biggest Fan
Simone Biles' little sister, Adria Biles, is a fellow gymnast, a Simone lookalike, and a fierce champion of her famous sister.
By Katherine J. Igoe
Melissa Moore's 'Life After Happy Face' Podcast Looks at Killers Through New Eyes
The true crime expert and daughter of the Happy Face Killer opens up to Marie Claire about destigmatizing the label of 'criminal's kid.'
By Maria Ricapito
Won't Call the Midwife
With high rates of maternal mortality and coercion in hospital settings, more American women are exploring childbirth without any medical assistance whatsoever. The Free Birth Society provides community, resources, and validation for these convention buckers. But experts warn that choice comes at the expense of safety.
By Rebecca Grant
Michelle Zauner's 'Crying in H Mart' Is Deeply Moving
"She made me want to eat and cry at the same time..."
By Rachel Epstein
Being Estranged From My Mom Is Hard. Mother’s Day Makes It Harder
It’s high time to start representing the different types of mother-daughter relationships—or lack thereof—that exist during the holiday.
By Christina Wyman