In the series "Not In Your Face" the t-shirt is starkly evident but these photographs are not about the t-shirt per se. They are about the stories of people who tell their own story. I look for individuals who stand out in a crowd by their choice of the message on their back. The messages are combinations of pictures and words that are appropriated from contemporary culture but have the unique effect of mixing up meanings and creating new meanings. On the streets these personalities create their own iconography that explore the cultural, political and social issues that have an impact on our everyday lives.
I am influenced by the typologies of August Sander which address the sociological aspect of his time and I am attempting a similar kind of process. In these photographs we witness a chronicle of American subcultures and vernaculars which illustrate the American identity. These photographs demonstrate how these individuals wear a kind of badge of honor or trophy that says "I belong to this group not the other".
Each one of these people reveal a part of themselves that advertises their hopes, ideals, likes, dislikes, political views, and personal mantras.
By photographing from the back I attempt to challenge the time-honored tradition of the portrait being of the face and test whether body type, dress and demeanor can tell us just as much as a facial expression might.
When assembled in grids I aim to reveal both the similarities and differences of each peer group and explore their unique patterns and themes. I believe the power of each portrait's meaning becomes apparent from the juxtaposition of many images. It is a universe of individuals but combined creates a picture of our time without the imposition of judgment. In these photographs a conversation is struck with each personality and an intimacy is created. We may feel we know more about these individuals then we really do. Their mystery is preserved and the power of photography can celebrate our urge to unravel it.
About The Artist
When George Harrison arrived in New York for the Beatles' historic visit he was carrying a Pentax Spotmatic as he descended the airplane's steps. Susan Barnett, then 15 years old, soon bought the same Pentax and began to photograph her everyday life such as it appeared to her.
With a formal education in Art History and Studio Art, she landed a job at Perls Galleries on Madison Avenue, where she worked for twelve years as Associate Director. She handled Picasso, Braque, Leger and Matisse as well as preparing exhibitions and catalogues for Alexander Calder.
Next door to Perls Galleries was Light Gallery, one of the earliest galleries to show Contemporary Photography. There Susan experienced first hand the work of Steven Shore and Lee Friedlandler.
In 1990 she went back to school to study graphic design and computer based photography at the School of Visual Arts, where she studied with Milton Glaser and Paul Davis.
Susan currently lives in Manhattan, where she maintains a working studio in Tribeca and sails in Hampton Bays.