Not In Your Face by Susan A. Barnett

Issue 35

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.

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 than we really do. Their mystery is preserved and the power of photography can celebrate our urge to unravel it.

Susan A. Barnett is a New York City, New York based artist.
To view more of Susan's work, please visit her website.