2.7.2 Olivo Barbieri

The father of 'Tilt Shift' photography Barbieri is accredited with adapting the method to represent cities and scenes as miniature models. The effects are truly amazing and have created a new genre with an almost cult following. A search of any of the shared image sites will reveal budding 'Barbieri's'.

Barbieri is recognised for his innovative technique creating miniature still photography from actual landscapes by simulating shallow depth of field via the use of tilt-shift lens photography. Barbieri's technique simulates the shallow depth of field effect of macro photography by tilting the lens's angle to the back plane of the camera, which creates a gradual blurring at the top and bottom edges, or left and right edges of the filmed image.

The idea has also been used to create videos that look more like children's TV scenes (see my tilt shift blog for some fascinating videos). Interestingly, some of them 'appear' to recreate actual model scenes that might have been used for epic scenes in pre 2000 Hollywood films. Mostly, we look back at those old films, from a world of CGI capability etc., with almost humour and disbelief that we took them for real.

The converse appears to be true of Tilt Shift images - most people, initially at least, refuse to accept that they are real scenes and continue to believe that they are actually looking at miniature models.

Olivo Barbieri, Biography
Born in 1954 in Italy he is both an artist and photographer of urban environments.

Barbieri has exhibited his work at the Venice Biennale (1993, 1995, 1997), among other international exhibitions, and in galleries and museums throughout Europe, North America, and China. In 1996, the Museum Folkwang in Essen, Germany, devoted a retrospective to his work, which has been collected by museums worldwide. Barbieri has published several books of his work, including Notsofareast (Rome, 2002), Virtual Truths (Milan, 2001), Artificial Illuminations (Washington, D.C., 1998) and Paesaggi ibridi (Milan, 1996).

In an article in October 2008's Digital Camera magazine (thanks Jim, for providing a hard copy), Barbieri simply describes the technique as allowing him "to decide what stays in focus" A simple description for what, any of his images will show, is a very sophisticated eye for the genre. For the famous waterfall image of the Iguazu on the Argentina/Brazil border - just one from the 'Waterfall' collection - was actually created 'post-production' in Photoshop. He used a Fujifilm medium format camera with 180mm f3.2 lens.

He adds to his description be suggesting that with his images "the viewer is forced to read one line at a time" a comparison he makes with reading a book.

Without any technical training, describing himself as 'self-taught' Barbieri admits to studying the history of photography at Bolgna University.
He started exhibiting in 1978 and was influenced by Man Ray and Andy Warhol. The interest in creating 'miniature still life' was, he says, inspired by the work of Gherhard Richter. Barbieri was taking pictures of Italian football stadia when it occurred to him that they could be "transformed to look like models".

"It's very important" say Barbieri "for the cities to look like miniatures" adding that he started the series "because of an interest in philosophy and the philosophy of representation. I'm trying to understand how we perceive with different techniques of seeing. 

Asked about light on one of his images Barbieri reveals with striking honesty that it was about "being in the right place at the right time". He seems more concerned with architecture, its impact on man and re-representation of it. 

Get it while you can - "I believe that I'm coming to the end of this period in my photographic career - after all, I've been working on these images for almost 10 years" then offering respite with "I'm continually discovering new possibilities with my tilt and shift aerial work, so I'm not sure".

Barbieri's commitment to his work is revealed in his top tips;
  • I take about 60,000 images and save about 12
  • There are no short cuts in pro-photography, you have to put the work in
  • Be aware of how to improve, learn from what others are doing
Replacing Awe with Aw
Now for a slide show of his work. As I pondered the images, it occurred to me that all of them are of fairly significant natural or man made constructions. Each of them has the capacity to strike awe in to the observer; New York, Las Vegas, or Rome. Is transforming these places to a miniature, more acceptable scale an attempt remove the 'awe' and replace with 'aw' as in "aw shucks" or "how sweet"?

1 comment:

  1. Hi Joe,

    Saw this and thought of you, I think it's fantastic, I bet it took some doing!