Studio Studies: Paul Barbera's Where They Create project
Photographer Paul Barbera makes art from the work environments of artists.
Barbera has made photographing creative space an art form, posting on his blog Where They Create the workplaces of the people he’s met travelling as a photographer for publications including Vogue Living. In 2011 he released a book showcasing 34 workspaces taken from a roll call of the cutting edge of fashion, design, art and creative publishing that includes designer Maarten Baas, fashion retailer Opening Ceremony and industrial designer Matali Crasset. The book also features interviews with all the artists by design writer Alexandra Onderwater.
Most studios are exclusive to the book and were shot on a nine-month journey that took Barbera to creative communities in Amsterdam, New York, London, Tokyo, Hong Kong, Bangkok and Warsaw. The evolution of the project confirms Barbera’s belief in “following your bliss”. “The project has all happened very naturally, but it has brought together all these different aspects of myself: my love of travel and that I get inspired by shooting interiors. I believe that when you follow what you love, you will always find a way to attain the life you want.”
Barbera’s passion for recording creative studios had its genesis more than 20 years ago. “I have been shooting studios from when I was 17, those of friends who were painters and artists. It was innocent; I just felt compelled to document their spaces.” An off-the-cuff discussion with friends about possible analogies between creative space and creative output gave Barbera the impetus to get the images off his hard drive and into the public realm.
“The blog started as something that I did for myself, really, and maybe people found it and maybe they didn’t.” The response was almost instant, with networks of international design bloggers reblogging the images to a growing base of admirers, who were captivated by the intriguing proposition behind the project and the photographs’ essential beauty.
As word of the project spread, increasing numbers of people offered access to their own network of contacts. “Initially I was shooting studios a lot more haphazardly, but in the last two and a half years, the project has given every space and every person I meet a whole new purpose, and my meeting them a point of a focus. Because it is kind of a free project, and everyone is willing to help, they think, ‘Who do I know that you would love to shoot?’ It all becomes a point of communication, a point of exchange.”
Tools and paintbrushes seem to wait in anticipation for their owners to return and make use of them. Teetering stacks of paper and sheets strewn across every surface become the romantic detritus of the flurry of creative activity, as opposed to just being evidence of systematic disorganisation. The slapdash use of objects – a dust-covered fax machine serving as a doorstop, a pot plant-cum- paperweight – become inspired creative responses to ordinary problems rather than stopgap solutions.
Barbera asks his subjects to refrain from tidying their workspaces prior to his arrival. Once he arrives, he takes on the role of an observer. There is no styling of the space, or any rearrangement of objects to create the often quirky juxtapositions and odd details that are a consistent feature of the project. The only major intervention Barbera ever makes is to switch off artificial lighting to make use of natural light.
For more information on Where They Create visit here.
Photographs courtesy of Paul Barbera.