Assignement #4 Part 1; Uta Barth bio and work

Uta Barth

  • Born: Germany in 1958
  • Currently resides in California and is a professor at the University of California at Riverside; the department of Art
  • Been part in over 70 art exhibitions and galleries

One of her most famous collections are Ground and Field and “consist of blurred images generated by focusing the camera on an unoccupied foreground” (Journal of Contemporary Art).  Pieces from that collection have a “distinctively painterly quality, and have been compared to the formal aspects and quality of light in Vermeer’s paintings” (Adriano Pedroa, Frieze Magazine). This is a description given by Adriano Pedroa from Frieze Magazine about the work of Uta Barth in her Ground series: “blurred details of architectural interiors. Take a plain, straightforward snapshot of an individual in a vaguely familiar interior setting ­ by a window, a curtain, or a lamp, against a bookshelf, a white or grayish wall. The focus is, quite appropriately, on the subject (your mother, your father, your lover), and due to the large aperture, everything but him/her is blurred ­ perhaps a strip of a door might make it within the focus range, though it is very unlikely. Now eliminate the subject, not letting your camera rush its auto-focus to the background. Hold it still and shoot: that’s what a photograph by Uta Barth looks like” (Adriano Pedroa, Frieze Magazine).  It is also perceived that Barth’s work is mainly concerned with an absence or the lack of a subject.  This is what makes her photographs so wonderful and attention grabbing; the viewer is searching for the subject which is what fist draws them in.

This is a direct quote from Barth speaking about her Ground series and how the spectator plays a role in the photography and how she envisioned her photos to be seen:

It seems to me that the work invites confusion on several levels, and that “meaning” is generated in the process of “sorting things out.” On the most obvious level, we all expect photographs to be pictures of something. We assume that the photographer observed a place, a person, an event in the world and wanted to record it, point at it. There is always something that motivated the taking of a photograph. The problem with my work is that these images are really not of anything in that sense, they register only that which is incidental and peripheral implied. Instead, there are some clues to indicate that what we are looking at is the surrounding information. (The images lack focus because the camera’s attention is somewhere else. Many of the compositions, while clearly deliberate and carefully arranged in relation to the picture’s edge, are awkward, off-balance and formally suggest a missing element.) Slowly it becomes clear that what we are presented with is a sort of empty container and it is at that point that people begin to “project” into this space. It begins to read as an empty screen” (Barth, Journal of Contemporary Art, Interview).

Barth also explains that most of her recent images in that collection, consist primary of shadow information.

Here is another quick explanation of Barth’s work “This technique challenges the viewer to try to determine the camera’s point of focus, many times creating the illusion of an extreme close-up. Uta Barth points out that blur, or objects being out of focus due to a shallow depth of field, is an optical condition that works the same way in the eye as it does with a camera. Because the eye is constantly shifting its focus, we rarely notice this phenomenon.
By creating photographs that mimic the blurred images in our periphery, Uta Barth hopes to create a familiar feeling, having the viewer fill the emptiness of the image while feeling an appreciation for the everyday objects that we no longer ‘see'” (Photographers and Photography).

Below are some of the photos I enjoy the most from her Ground and Field Collections:


Fied #19

Ground #30, 1994, (

Ground #95.6

Field #9

Ground #41
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