Canadian artist wants his viewers to be ‘arrested’
Photography is the language of light – a fine art that goes way beyond technical details. My artist colleague and long-term Xchanges Member Barry Herring uses his camera as a source material to start. The photographer from Victoria B.C. invites his viewers to wander in his images and find their own meaning. Herring has been working in a traditional black and white darkroom as well as in colour with digital techniques.
Barry, you are a true lens-based visual artist – however your art is not an exact replication of what you see.
Barry Herring: I don’t think we don’t need more replicas. The camera is a tool for me to find source material and a starting point to explore and have some fun.
Are you not interested in just capturing a moment forever?
Barry Herring: I want the viewer to initially be arrested and then invited or drawn into the image to start a personal and hopefully deeper exploration of the work, arriving at their own conclusions or telling their own stories of what they experience.
Or as Emily Dickinson puts it: “Tell the truth, but tell it with a slant”?
Barry Herring: Indeed. I try to find a balance in presenting enough ambiguity in the image to allow the viewer to wander in and find their own meaning, but not so much that the image becomes overly complicated and is ignored because it is not concrete enough.
You have been taking photos for long time. How has the nature of photos changed in your opinion?
Barry Herring: Taking pictures about 30 years ago used to be a big deal. Rolls of film used to be expensive, so we put a lot of thought into what we wanted to capture. Today, buying paper and film material for your camera has practically become an art form again.
Barry Herring: Film photography has something magical about it – particularly when the image emerges from the chemicals on the tray. There’s nothing like it. I have no real preference as it varies with the project I am working on.
You say that your approach starts from patient observation with a personal vision in mind.
Barry Herring: A lot has to do with anticipation. In my art I am looking for something different, but it is all about knowing where to look.
Where did you look when you went on an expedition to the Arctic for example?
Barry Herring: Up North, where there are not trees, just landform, I was exploring ‘The Line’…. the line between weather and earth. I remember feeling totally immersed in nature, incredibly small and insignificant standing on a large piece of ice.
Barry, would you share some details with my readers on how to do your amazing sponge technique?
Barry Herring: I have been playing with developing prints using sponges or other tools to achieve unanticipated results. This is instead of putting them through a tray of developer fluid. The resulting images are really lens-based monoprints as each one is unique and can’t be exactly reproduced. When combined with toning or hand colouring you get interesting results.
Do you ever attend workshops on photography?
I recently attended a week-long workshop put on by John Sexton who was an assistant to Ansel Adams and is recognized as one of the best traditional film photographers alive. He is a true master craftsman and it was inspiring to see how he worked with his cameras and in his darkroom. I realized that the type of photography that interested him was not at all similar to my focus. However the care in his approach to the craft and the desire to produce an image that inspires viewers is the same for both of us.
Barry, which photographers have inspired you?
- Henri Cartier-Bresson for composition
- Robert Frank for street photography
- Richard Avedon for portraits
- Sebastiao Salgado for his vast landscapes
- Michael Kenna for his quiet landscapes
- Gerhard Richter for hand coloured photos
- Jeff Wall for the introduction of narrative
- Robert & Shana ParkeHarrison for arresting imaging
Barry Herring, thank you for sharing your thoughts with my readers.
Barry Herring, a retired architect with a lifelong interest in photography, works out of Xchanges Gallery’ Crossgrain Photographic Studio, a traditional wet darkroom, in Victoria, B.C. More information about the Canadian artist: gobc.ca/BarryHerringPhotography