I learned a lot about photography while living in China and it is unsurprising that many of the photographers I have studied spent significant time in the country. Shanghai does not do things by half, there were many exhibitions there, showcasing work from some of the greatest artists that have lived. If you are in Shanghai, be sure to visit the Shanghai Center of Photography (SCoP), it often has small, but significant exhibitions. One such showcase featured the work of Bruno Barbey.
Bruno Barbey became a full-fledged member of Magnum Photography in 1968. He is a photographer with dual nationality of French and Swiss and was born in Morocco, a background that screams for an adventurous life! Barbey has traveled and photographed extensively across five continents, and while not classifying himself as a War Photographer (or a Street Photographer) he as covered numerous conflicts, including Vietnam, the Middle East, Cambodia and Bangladesh. Having lived in Bangladesh, I cannot imagine the horrors of having to cover a war in the country. However, it is through his work in China that I discovered his work.
Barbey was one of the few photographers allowed into Mao’s Communist China, with his first visit being in 1973. Since then, he has returned many times. One reason I find his work so inspiring is that he used colour film (Kodachrome). This medium captured the contrasting green and reds of the army’s uniforms as well as the ever-present communist propaganda posters. Morocco is another country covered extensively by Barbey, and the strong colours and harsh shadows instantly reminded me of Alex Webb’s work. A second area that we can study is Barbey’s ability to create candid images. There are few people whose pictures appear uninfluenced by the photographer’s presence. Finally, look at how he repeatedly uses patterns and repetition, again, Communist China with its rows of identically dressed citizens with red cravats around their necks would have been an ideal for this style of composition.
As ever, there are links at the bottom of this page to help you discover more about this inspirational photographer. If you enjoy purchasing photography books, I recommend ‘China, From Mao to Modernity, Bruno Barbey”. Next post will be on Monday, although I have no idea who I am going to write about. I may well look closer to home. Have a great weekend.
Keep Clicking, Chris