The Beginning is the photographic memory of Tina Barney. The latter is in Rhode Island when she comes across hundreds of forgotten negatives that take her mind back in time. She meditates on the subjects she sees in the photographs, where she was at the time, and why she approached certain people. What was the impulse to capture those moments? During the quarantine, the world paused: most people used this still, stalled period to reflect, to spend time on memories that usually, because of hurry, get lost along the way. Tina also rediscovers an image of herself that she had neglected: her life as a young artist. Her intimate memories re-emerge, photographs appear as x-rays of her mind, and her thoughts of summers spent with her family and friends resurface in her memory. Barney holds all of her past in one hand, and decides to rearrange it, resulting in an entire photo book.
The Beginning is a nostalgic exploration and self-analysis through a critical eye, that of the photographer herself, who analyzes in depth the shots that launched her career. It was the 1970s when she began capturing the rhythms and rituals of the people closest to her, paying particular attention to the gestures and movements of her subjects. The book is an intimate tale of the places Tina lived and the people she frequented, showing the reader a yet unknown part of herself through images never seen before. During the exhibition that took place at Kasmin Gallery, the audience was able to feel part of the shared environments, understanding even more deeply the artist’s point of view.
“The photographs in this book look like x-rays of my mind and thoughts during summers spent with family and friends on the East Coast and in Sun Valley, Idaho.”
Tina Barney’s memory allows us to discover her black-and-white photographs, used to capture details such as locks of hair or the steam of a sauna; these alternate with color shots, where the green and blue hues of the landscape clash with brighter shades corresponding to the incessant traffic of people. Tina carefully reflects on their gestures, noting even the most subtle ones: her works explore, with gentle humor, the unspoken tensions and intimacies in family and friendships. Waterslide in Fog (1979) is the image that has remained most etched in the artist’s memories: the photograph depicts a group of young people at water park, wet and still in costume, hurriedly running for shelter, braving the gloomy, cloudy weather. She vividly remembers that day and the people in front of her who were trying to escape the storm, presenting the situation to the audience with an outside eye, as an observer merely narrating. The photos offer a clear and whimsical view of the public spaces and leisure time she and her friends spent at the pool, at golf course, at gardens, and at restaurants, making the audience feel part of those moments. Looking at the shots, one can feel the emotions of the subjects depicted, the carefreeness of children enjoying themselves while admiring a huge fish, and the innate elegance of women strolling on Fifth Avenue.
Over the course of her 40-year career, Tina Barney has illuminated the inner lives of her loved ones, observing the generational repetition of family traditions and rhythms that take place in domestic settings. The photographer captures the complexity and sensitivity of the people she portrays, their truest side, reflecting on the symbiosis that arises between the relational and psychological experiences between artist and subject, between subject and audience. Barney’s blurred memories become more fluid, acquire a certain order, and turn into a long narrative that brings with it joy and nostalgia: an inner dialogue for the photographer herself and a formative exploration for the viewer.
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