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Responding to the work of Uta Barth

In a previous blog I celebrated the work of a contemporary female photographer Uta Barth . Since then I have spent some time working out some of the 'threads of thinking' that she has explored. Uta's approach is to explore the nature of seeing - the difference between what you see with the naked eye and what you see through a camera lens. She examines the interplay of light and shadow through capturing mundane, everyday things, often in her house or just outside. Uta also engaged in long projects over time, following the way light fell into a space over time.

These insights gave me so many ideas to pursue and I have had lots of fun following them up.

The first experiment was to follow the light as it came into the bedroom at dawn. It gradually sneaked in under the curtains and moved across the wall:

I followed Uta's example of focussing on the interior and letting the exterior blur, even allowing blown highlights. And the sequence does reflect the subtle changes that had gone unnoticed on every other morning that I have woken up in this room.

Uta also put herself in the image at times so I captured the movement as I opened the curtains to let in the morning light:

It is also fascinating to consider the way that Uta post-processed her images and the choices that she made in shape and sizing. In her exhibitions, the images were usually huge, and a mix of square and landscape format. Here I have taken the same image and cropped in different ways, and it does change the effect. The square crop provides a balance between inside and out, with the eye drawn across the image by the branches to the light outside.The central image with its landscape crop emphasises the contrast of light inside and out, with more of sense of the whole. The final portrait crop focuses in on the vertical line of light on the curtain edge and gives a feeling of intimacy. I am learning a lot about the decisions that guide us in our pursuit of presenting what we were feeling and experiencing and what we want the viewer to appreciate in the scene.

I had really been impressed with Uta's series of photos In the Light and Shadow of Morandi (2017) in which she had photographed vases and jars from different angles and lighting. By chance, I had a blue vase in the bedroom, and noticed the way that the light was shining through it onto the wall - cue further experimentation!

I found some more jars to add different colours and played with the angles and shapes:

becoming more abstract as the sun rose and the light got stronger through the window:

It is fascinating to see how changing my angle of view alters what the camera presents to the viewer. As I play around with Uta's inspiration, my perceptions are subtly changing and I am noticing elements in the viewfinder that I potentially would not have exploited before.

Another aspect of Uta's creations that I like are the minimalist red images that suddenly appear in a sequence as in her 2022 series from dawn to dusk, where Uta took over 64,000 images over a year of the Getty Centre, focussing on the changing light in one location. I have played around with changing the colour of an image to critique the resulting effect. I focused on red in a previous blog and found that it evoked powerful emotions and drew attention to the image. Here I have chosen three images to play with. I added a colour layer in photoshop and experimented with different blend modes:

I know there is more to explore of Uta's work, but for now, I thank her for helping me along my creative journey.

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