Uta Barth

Her work encapsulates a particular moment, when we are unconsciously ignorant 
of the fact that we are looking - Camilla Brown, Curator
In looking through books in the library I came across a particular one on Uta Barth's photography, whose work I had never looked at previously. Her photographs of the banal are well known for her use of blurring in her images to capture shapes and colour and distort the perception of the viewer. 

Barth's work has often been misinterpreted as being of a painterly and sentimental nature. As lot of her photographs were of domestic environments, exploring the visual information we often ignore in our everyday surroundings. Barth's work is extraordinarily beautiful to me in the way she finds subtle beauty in the banal. The use of soft focus is mainly for conceptual reasons as Barth seeks to question photography's reliance on subjects and its inability to deter from formally presenting subjects, as the means of reading what the context of an image is. Her work is all about perception through the characteristic way she distorts how we perceive what is between the background and foreground in an image. Making you aware in a more introspective way of what you are looking at.

It is clear that Barth's work sits firmly within the movements of minimalism and conceptualism. Her clever use of negative space with blurring means we get these indistinct voids of colour in her images. Which creates these clean palettes of more desaturated colour in her images that very much reference abstract painting. The lack of focus also means we are drawn to study the shapes of colour in her images rather than trying to distinguish the exact subject matter very much like if we were reading an abstract painting. 

In terms of my own interior/exterior photography, Barth's images have very much made me think about how I can play with perception and framing of shapes and colour in the spaces I am photographing. My work is of course not going to be abstract in nature due to the specialised nature of my photographic studies. However studying more unconventional approaches to photographing literal subject matter such as in this case, really does give me a much broader perspective on how I can approach my own work.

The image above titled Ground #41 (1994) particularly grabbed my interest because we know what the subject matter is but the soft focus on the image and tight composition means we observe the lines and shapes of colour in the image more than the books. If we were able to identify the book titles, or the image had a much wider crop it would be a completely different picture. Which has really made me think a lot more about how important composition is to communicate what you want, about your subject matter.  What I really love about Barth's work however is how intriguing it is that her camera is clearly focused on something that is not shown in the photograph. Which is really potent in conveying that her images are about the immaterial and ideas about perception rather than the context of the subject matter she has photographed.

Images taken from the book Uta Barth + Why It Does Not Have to Be In Focus

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