Homegrown talent and rising star Tim Barber has it all going on. The artist arrives from NY, hires a car, mounts his work in my gallery, hangs the show and ices the beer for his opening. An all-star amount of work in 2 days, and a dream come true for myself, the curator and owner of the LES Gallery in Vancouver. Tim Barber showed a selection of photographs from the series “Mystic Heather and Virgin Snow” at my space during September 2009. The well attended show garnered an incredibly positive response. Tim’s images are personal and revealingly touching, inviting the viewer into his life and focusing mostly on one subject. While initially I assumed the subject was Her, I realized that the images said more about the artist- giving us the opportunity to see his courage, vision, passion and talent.
A few curiosity questions to start: Where are you from and where do you currently live?
I was born in Vancouver, grew up in Amherst Massachusetts, lived for a while in northern Vermont, went back to Vancouver for school, and I live in Manhattan now, been here for about 8 years.
When did you develop an interest in photography?
I think I was always interested in it. My parents had some really amazing photo books around the house and I would look at them over and over when I was a kid. I started taking photo classes in 9th grade.
Are there any artists that you currently draw inspiration from; contemporary, modern, amateur?
I run a website called Tiny Vices that answers all those questions.
As a Canadian, I can look at your work and find it nostalgically reminiscent of Canadian landscapes and geography, however I’m biased. Being born in Canada and living in NY, are your Canadian roots a source for inspiration? And how does living in NY compared to BC anyway?
Yeah I definitely think my Canadian-ness creeps into my photos somehow… I think more than anything the time I spent in Vancouver while going to school there was really influential for me, not just the landscape, but the friends I made there and the art that I was exposed to at that time. Living in NY is crazy. It’s crowded and lonely and overwhelming and amazing. I’m still, and will probably always be, figuring it out.
Due to your extensive resume of varied profiles, your work has been viewed by a lot of people, which inevitably leads to various forms of public perception. Have you ever found it challenging to break out of pre-determined stigmas (if any) when developing your personal work?
I guess I don’t really think about that too much. I always feel like I make things with a very small and specific audience in mind, and more than anything, for myself. I think people try and define themselves and others too aggressively. I think it’s nice to just follow your instincts and not try to cater to any preconceived perceptions.
Speaking to the series that was shown at the LES (Mystic Heather and Virgin Snow), I was always curious as to what your intent was “the day the photo was taken”. I would imagine in some cases you knew the “moment” would happen, but other times, convinced you didn’t. Your work is keenly aware of composition, texture, perspective, etc, yet there is an unmistakable feeling of spontaneity in a lot of your photos. Can you speak to the impromptu appearance of the work in comparison to the thoughtfully considered?
For that shoot I was really trying for both, a thoughtfully considered spontaneity. All the shots were set up, all the locations carefully chosen, it was all very much crafted. But the spontaneity you see in the photos is still real and honest. Spontaneity can happen in the details of a face or the gesture of a hand. Even inanimate objects can feel spontaneous. I wanted the series to feel like stills from a fairy-tale, to tell a mysterious story about a mysterious girl.