A contemporary American photographer, her images are built around family and friends, interpersonal relationships and the lifestyles and family dynamics of those around her, showcasing the emotional complexity and psychological tension in ordinary domestic moments. Most of her works are staged scenes to depict a final image that is carefully arranged to achieve a desired image. Her images are colourful, dynamic and in large format. She is considered to be the one of the greatest documentary photographers of her time as well, her photographs striking the perfect balance between both the spontaneity of documentary realism and the intentionality of well directed or staged scenes. According to her, she directs subtly rather than staging the scene completely and her works are the moments caught in between her directing the setting.
To be honest, so far I have not been able to relate to this kind of art and maybe it is my limitations that hold me back from understanding this kind of art or maybe I am not mature as an artist enough to understand it completely but it just does not appeal to me much. The same went for Parr when I was researching his work in FiP. Having said that, Barney’s image has a certain magnetism to it. To me her images are the perfect amalgamation of indifferent family emotions and interpersonal relations, offset with larger than life scenes, staged or candid, giving us a peek into the lives of the rich, which could be a sense of wonderment for the lesser privileged or the world outside of it. The family scenes do always create questions in the viewer’s mind as to what was the conversation going or what was happening at that moment which does create a sense of mystery to the frame. Her vivid use of colours and her sense of direction as she carefully and deliberately directs her settings clearly comes through her images.
Her images appear to have the perfect mix of ingredients, ranging between candid and staged photography, between intimacy and indifference, she captures her subjects in a myriad of settings, both private and public. Her iconic tableaux suggest rich narratives or, as she has written, the “synchronisation of psychological, emotional, and sociological plots that bind a family together.”
Despite her work being so vivid and striking, since I don’t relate to this kind of art much, I spent the maximum time researching about her work, along with reading her interviews. My earlier tilt toward capturing family moments was before I researched about her and even though I will not attempt that for the time being as the “One Square Mile” is an intimate topic for each individual and my thoughts for that are in a different direction, I am inspired to attempt this at some point during this course for sure. Getting out of your comfort zone is also learning and I will definitely give it a shot in the near future.
“I think a lot of modern art is complete bullshit. But I admire the creativity. The weird shit people think of! Some of the most interesting things I’ve ever seen in my life, I’ve seen in modern art museums. And that’s what art is all about. It’s supposed to make you think.” – Oliver Markus Malloy(Malloy, 2018)
Key points and learnings from Barney’s works-
- Strong narrative
- Shock Value
- Rich narrative
Fig 1 Barney,T. (2007) Tina Barney | Family Commission With Snake (2007) | Artsy. At: https://www.artsy.net/artwork/tina-barney-family-commission-with-snake-1 (Accessed 14/04/2020).
Artnet.com. (2020) Tina Barney | Artnet. At: http://www.artnet.com/artists/tina-barney/ (Accessed 14/04/20).
Paramore, t. (2020) Tina Barney: The Europeans – Frist Art Museum. At: https://fristartmuseum.org/calendar/detail/tina-barney-the-europeans (Accessed 14/04/20).
Tina Barney (2020) Tina Barney. At: http://www.tinabarney.com/ (Accessed 14/04/20).
Weingart, K. (2015) Tina Barney: Master Of Documentary Photography – Digital Photo Pro. At: https://www.digitalphotopro.com/profiles/tina-barney-master-of-documentary-photography/ (Accessed 14/04/20).