‘Brendan Barry is a photographer whose creative photographic practice combines elements of construction, education, performance and participation. His work is mostly concerned with the transformation of different objects and environments into spaces capable of viewing and capturing a photographic image, using the mechanics of photography as a tool for exploration and collaboration.‘
I found Brendan Barry’s talk absolutely engaging and so great, he was humorous and took a very candid take on informing us on his journey through the photographic industry.
He is one of the first artists to come in that takes an alternative approach to photography and this is what I found to be so engaging – later in the term I also attended a talk by Benjamin Jones, a Bath Spa Photography alumni and I found that these alternative processes really intrigue me, the idea that an image can be more than the digital process of taking, editing and straight printing.
Barry insinuated a similar interest in the alternative process as something that ‘re-livened’ his interest in photography after graduating, through his university journey travelling around America and Europe taking almost typology like sequences of images. He suggested that his MA practise was a turning point in his life, embarking on a 5 day immersive photography trip to Lithuania, taking nothing really but himself and his camera and not allowing any distractions. This immersive practice is something I am so intrigued in, in early summer (2019) I went down to Falmouth for 3 days and almost did the same but was staying with an old friend. Even this limited contact in the evening broke me out of that trance like photography induced hypnosis that I was in and I found I was unable to truly get into my surroundings. I see his point completely and it’s something I do aim to do.
Barry talked about other cultural media informing his work, literature being a key part in how his photography was created in his mind. His ‘road trip across America’ was highly influenced by early reading he did as a teenager, but found as much as it informed his work, it almost started hindering it, cliches of the landscape creeping into his images. He started to judge his own work against his peers and artist references, realising his voice was perhaps not an original one, admitting that maybe there was too much replication of peer’s work. I find this to be especially relevant to my approach within my own practise, I do a lot of background reading and research when embarking on a project and I do recognise this struggle with the theory and concept taking over; its interesting to hear from an artist further on in their career, maybe something to be wary of?
To hear Barry talk so candidly about the fact that he lost interest in his practise and the digital process was quite assuring if I’m being honest, and it almost seems to be similar with a-lot of the talks we have had so far; this interest can be spiked again by just a simple conversation.Talking to Jem Southam, he found that he could keep this interest in photography alive but also support himself financially if he went into teaching. This gave him the chance to lean further into the alternative processes, and when teaching at Exeter College he started to make large format cameras.
Taking a self-built 16″x20″ large format camera on the road to Latvia, he found the process incredibly slow, only making up to 3 prints a day, but the important part was that he was enjoying making and photographing again. This set the ball rolling, starting with a standard large format camera, Barry took these processes to whatever he could, saying that any object has the potential to be a camera, using lego, cheese, and even a pineapple.
Getting bigger, Barry made cameras out of camper vans, transforming spaces such as shipping containers and even 44th floor of a NY skyscraper into camera obscuras, inside which he called a strange, dimensional, magical world, making prints and images that have real feeling and process to them. I think thats the phrase I picked up on, that feeling behind a photograph. Back in year 1 and the analogue project I found every image to have an aura, something that perhaps a digital print didn’t, knowing that I had created the analogue print myself.
Due to deadlines I was unable to attend his workshop in which he turned one of our classrooms into a camera obscura, which I was gutted about, but I found even his talk to be inspiring enough.
Earlier in the afternoon Brendan was offering feedback on my peers’ work, and although earlier in the day I was very apprehensive of the idea of showing any, I was persuaded by tutors to show my project ‘The Way things are’, my project on suburbia in Britain in the wake of Brexit and a shifting political climate (this information is important!). I found the conversation that we had much more fulfilling on discussing attitudes and ideas around the taking of these images and what the catalyst for this idea was. I found that he was passionate about the issues that I was covering and gave me more to think about in editing and sequencing images as the idealogical nature comes forward more with certain images.
In suggesting the Becher’s work as influential visually, I agreed that although my work doesn’t appear as a typology as such, it has suggestions of it, with a similar vantage point and style.
I was grateful for Barry’s time as it gave me a new perspective from someone that hadn’t viewed my images before, it was actually very assuring as a photographer, and to gain perspective of how my work could actually sit within the industry one day.
Barry, B. (2019) Brendan Barry, Available at: https://brendanbarry.co.uk/ (Accessed: 30th December 2019).