Cancellations by Thomas Barrow

Issue 49

Thomas F. Barrow is an artist working with photography more than he is a photographer. In a studio littered with brightly colored toys, stacks of magazines, Polaroids, spray cans, caulk, and various instruments for conjuring fire, there are no studio lights, no lenses or mat cutters, no computers. For Barrow, the ideas are what matter, not the material they are realized with.

Barrow's Cancellations series is an early expression of this artistic philosophy. Created between 1973-1981, it began when Barrow moved from Rochester, New York to Albuquerque, New Mexico to teach at UNM. Like many photographers of this era (Lewis Baltz, Frank Gohlke, Robert Adams) Barrow was struck by the transformation underway with the (sub)urbanization of the Western landscape. However, he was inspired to do more than document with his camera; he wanted to challenge his viewers while subverting some fundamental truths of photography. Inspired by a cancelled Marcel Duchamp etching (a process where the etching plate is defaced to indicate that no more official prints may be made), he began defacing his negatives with an ice pick and hole punch, "canceling" them before making the images.

Almost 40 years later, it's still unclear whether Barrow is canceling the photograph or the scene in the picture. He is certainly calling attention to the matrix that produced the photograph, an unheard of practice at the time and still rare today. By defacing his negatives, he has created photographs that are as much about the physical image as they are about the subject in the photograph. -- David Ondrik

To purchase the book Cancellations , published by powerHouse click here.

Thomas Barrow is an Albuquerque, NM based artist and photographer.
To contact Mr. Barrow, please contact the editor.