Susan Barnett

"Not In Your Face"

Not In Your Face

In the series “Not In Your Face” the t-shirt is starkly evident but these photographs are not about the t-shirt per se. They are about the stories of people who tell their own story. I look for individuals who stand out in a crowd by their choice of the message on their back. The messages are combinations of pictures and words that are appropriated from contemporary culture but have the unique effect of mixing up meanings and creating new meanings. On the streets these personalities create their own iconography that explore the cultural, political and social issues that have an impact on our everyday lives. In the early months of 2012 the LA Times ran a front page article describing the emergence of the t-shirt and hoodie as a staple of the protest movement gathered in support of Trayvon Martin a young man gunned down in Florida that became a cause célèbre throughout the nation. The Trayvon Martin protest T-shirt has become a staple at rallies across the country, and it's difficult to think of another item of clothing more representative of the nation's twitchy zeitgeist in April 2012. Sometimes it seems as though the old-fashioned medium of cotton has done as much as the Internet to spread the memes associated with the tragedy through the country - and the world. These photographs demonstrate how these individuals wear a kind of badge of honor or trophy that says “I belong to this group not the other”. Each one of these people reveal a part of themselves that advertises their hopes, ideals, likes, dislikes, political views, and personal mantras. By photographing from the back I attempt to investigate the time-honored tradition of the portrait being of the face and test whether body type, dress and demeanor can tell us just as much as afacial expression might. When assembled in grids I aim to reveal both the similarities and differences of each peer group and explore their unique patterns and themes. I am influenced by the typologies of August Sander and The Bechers. I believe the power of each portraitʼs meaning becomes apparent from the juxtaposition of many images. It is a universe of individuals but combined creates a picture of our time without the imposition of judgment. In these photographs a conversation is struck with each personality and a dialogue can occur. We may feel we know more about these individuals than we really do. Their mystery is preserved and the power of photography can celebrate our urge to unravel it.

Susan Barnett

When George Harrison arrived in New York for the Beatles’ historic visit he was carrying a Pentax Spotmatic as he descended the airplanes steps. I was then 15 years old and soon I bought the same Pentax and began to photograph my everyday life such as it appeared to me. I later was lucky enough to have been given my Fathers 40 year old Leicaflex SL2 which I use to this day. After an internship at the Cloisters the Medieval branch of the Metropolitan Museum of Art I was lucky enough to get a job at the Perls Galleries on Madison Avenue which specialized in the School of Paris, the Fauves and made Alexander Calder a household word. I worked there I worked for twelve years as Associate Director. I continue my association with Calder and the Perls to this day. Next door to Perls Galleries was Light Gallery, one of the earliest galleries to show Contemporary Photography; there I experienced firsthand the work of Steven Shore, Aaron Siskind and Lee Friedlander. The art world of the 70’s in New York gave me the opportunity to explore the art of the moment but because of the proximity of all the Museums and galleries and auction houses I was able to give myself an education in visual thinking while handling the work of the Masters. I continued to photograph and eventually began to use my camera full time once again. I have had solo exhibitions at the The Griffin Museum of Photography, Center for Fine Art Photography, DeSantos Gallery and in October at the Detroit Center for Contemporary Photography. “Not In Your Face” has won awards recently from PhotoLucida Critical Mass Top 50 and the PDN Annual 2013. Images are available at Clampart, New York.

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