IC - Week 6 - Project development - Uta Barth

I bought the album about Uta Barth almost year ago. Her works were mentioned in one of the presentations in the first module and I instinctively felt I should look at her works closer. I have read some chapters and looked at the images for a couple of days and put in on the shelve. What I saw was interesting and I sort of thought I get it but now I know that my understanding was shallow and quite not there yet. I have been shooting the quotidian scenes in my house at that time but my focus was on the narrative meaning.

When I look at her works today they mean so much more. It is I guess due to the fact that the way I see through the lens changed a lot during the last year. I have different expectations of the photographic medium as both, spectator and author. It is not as much a matter of a different way of looking at the world but more the realisation of what I can and want to do with a camera (or rather in collaboration with a camera), how I can capture those essential elements which are important to me photographically, how to extricate them from the literality.

With the spectacular "Grounds' series Uta Barth introduced the new qualities of the image recorded with a camera offering a viewer not an expected subject matter but the new experience of looking.

(...) "Bart has claimed that it is less 'what it is that you are looking at' that matters in her work, than attending to the activity of looking (...) Barth's insistence on foregrounding the act of perceptual attention, rather than the object depicted, offers a neat summa for approaching the breadth of her practice" (Lee p.47)

Bart signified something which was so far playing a role of a secondary background or even undesirable effect of camera vision, into the rank of the intentional subject matter.

There is a quite obvious link between my most recent works and the spectacular and well known Barth's aesthetics - the significance of the blur. In my works though the photographic blur is used with different intention and is given a different status.

Barth is focusing on the characteristics of perception and invites viewer to reflect on the way the human eye can see in comparison to what can be seen and recorded through the camera lens. In my photographs, the shallow depth of field resulting in the soft, painterly blur, is a way to reduce the objects to unrecognisable abstract shapes which construct the composition on a different, abstract level. For the same reason, as well as to convey the sense of space between things, I include only fragments of them in the image frame.

There are a couple of other similarities to Barth approach (apart from the blur) in my recent practice. The same as Barth, I focus predominantly on the space around me, my private home and office where I spend a half of the day during the week. It seems to be an infinite source of motives as nothing is ever the same.

It isn't though my deliberate decision to limit the areas of my interest to those spaces, it happens naturally partially because of the practicalities but most of all because I don't feel the urge to search for the inspirations, they're everywhere and it is just a matter of a deep, receptive observation. 

I consider expanding my project to the external world. It will be still the space subordinate to my daily routine - the one hour journey to work - but the scale and character of the forms I am interested in out there is for obvious reasons different. I spoke about that with my tutor Michelle Sank and was rather encouraged to give it a go. 

I am afraid those worlds will not fit together but there is nothing to loose and the body of work from the road may just become a separate project.



  • Lee, Pamela; Gilbert-Rolfe, Jeremy; Higgs, Matthew  (2004) "Uta Barth", Phaidon Press