Research Notes – Tina Barney

Tina Barney (1945) is an American photographer known for her large size photographs of family and friends in their homes, doing everyday activities. She uses a large format camera to take pictures, which are all in colour.

Marina and Peter – link

In this picture of “Marina and Peter”, there is a general sense of mess. The wardrobe open at the back and the clothes in the front give an impression of the picture being spontaneous, like not arranged. Yet it surely is not the case. There is a bit of Jeff Wall in these, particularly due to the seemingly unwarranted nature and the large format used. Lots of tension from both characters, which are probably father and daughter.

Marina’s room – link

The picture of “Marina’s room” was taken on the same room as above 10 years earlier, with probably the same characters but a lot less tension. It is interesting to see the evolution of families over time and how they change. The eroding effect of time on both character and places.

The Europeans – link

In “The Europeans”, Tina Barney set out to take pictures of whealty families from various countries in Europe. The pictures were all in large format and had a more formal, arranged approach than her previous photographs of family and friends.

What is interesting about Barney’s approach in The Europeans is how her style, used with family and friends, translates into total strangers. This has similarities to what I am experiencing with this assignment, as I am not that familiar with the area I am photographing. Unlike her previous pictures, the ones in The Europeans do not have the feeling of candour and familiarity that you could feel in her previous work. There is still that perception of arrangement, of meticulous preparation, but while in previous work one could be left to wonder if the picture was taken casually, in this case there are no doubt as to the formality of proceedings. It is possible that she wanted to convey those feelings, as part of her study of European nobility and wealth, but we do not know to what extent she knew the people being portrayed, and some of the titles, such as “The British Cousins“, leave you with the impression that she may have been somehow related to the subjects. It is this ambiguity that adds to the rigurosity of her approach to result in pictures that feels distinctly more distant than her previous work.

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