The Photo Curator's New Book Uncovers Beauty in the Mundane
Combining classical compositions, startling lens flares and an adolescent irreverent humor, photographer Tim Barber shares his subtly beautiful observations in this series from Untitled Photographs. Spanning 15 years of his career, the forthcoming monograph from OHWOW assembles Barber’s works together for the first time. After inheriting the role of Photo Editor at Vice magazine from Ryan McGinley––his first job in New York––Barber established himself as a celebrated curator through launching tinyvices.com. The online gallery of personally hand-picked photographers enabled Barber's curious, knowing eye to evolve independently of conventional rules of process, time or context. "He sweet talks you, makes you feel like you might even be beautiful,” says artist and filmmaker Miranda July of the experience of being shot by Barber. “At the time I felt really good, like I’d just been exhaled from his lips and was going to be inhaled through his nose, French style." NOWNESS met the photographer in his highly organized Manhattan studio to uncover the riddles in his work.
How did you put the book together?
I don't work in themes. This doesn't represent a time period or a body of work, it's just an edit of images that span my entire life of being a photographer. I always think I'm making puzzle pieces when I'm taking pictures and then trying to assemble some bigger picture out of those—even though there isn't one necessarily. There's infinite ways I could put it together.
Is it liberating to work that way?
Well, yes and no. It goes both ways. I have thousands of photos. I think of photographs like they're clues to something, there's some element of mystery or something mystical––a hint at something larger, a bigger story, a bigger narrative.
Does curating come naturally to you?
As you can see [gestures at his studio space] I like to keep organized. I think it’s a by-product of that: I am OCD-organized. Even when I was at school, I would look at someone’s work and want to fix it, organize it—accentuate the good qualities. It's an instinct thing.