Petra Barth

Petra Barth

The man who lost everything

by Petra Barth (USA)

I am German born documentary photographer, living in Washington DC. Over the last 10 years I have worked primarily in the Americas, but as well in Asia and Europe. My focus during the last years has bee in rural communities and the people living there. Mainly I am interested in stories which have social and human aspect.

Portfolio from the Visual storytelling workshop with Ron Haviv, May 2015.

Written review by JULIÁN DUEÑAS,
Director at GEO magazine

Dear Petra,

Amazing work! I loved it from the first statement’s line Véronique sent me. To meet with someone in the street and document his life during 2 days seems to me a great project’s idea. In my opinion, it is for many reasons: first, because it shows me that its cristal clear for you what you want; then, because I see that you are able to win over conventions and limits and throw yourself for what you’re looking for; finally, because it says a lot about your capacity to convince. It is not easy to convince someone to document his life during 2 full days. And then, you show a perfect coherence between planification and the development of the photographic sequence.

Technically speaking, I see that you’re following the canons of documentary photojournalism. I am for black and white as long as it is not used to hide weaknesses and weak approaches. This is not your case. Black and white was a good choice : it gives deepness and sense, makes it close, emotional and interesting. About photographic technique, I have not a lot to say except that you master it perfectly. You play with focus and blur, with the first plans, with chiaroscuro …You play with lights, with frames…Everything is excellent. Regarding framings, I also note that you are quite creative. You manage to identify existing resources that are at your reach, but also you use them, taking the most of them (the wall’s light through the subject’s head, the good and the bad of the subject in that reflections game where appears another men, another face, the devil’s horns?) You charge the tones in a few determined places and you forget others. Well, very well. The game with reflections, the use of mirrors, I like that. They seem interesting to me.

But outside all this, I think that where your strong point is, is the story’s conception. For previous comments, maybe you already know about me, let’s say, my insistence for stories. I think that this is what matters in this job: tell stories, and tell them well. Well, I think that with you, I have come to meet a great narrator. I don’t know if you also dedicate yourself to writing but I would say you have a natural mind to conceive and develop stories. In our specific case, the approach and the development are successful: you cover all the possible life’s angles of this character, you trace a trajectory from the start till the end, you make that the questions raise to the viewer’s mind. Very well. Excellent.

I also like very much the meta-literary that I see in your photographs: you speak of photography through a photographer (because except if I’m wrong and I haven’t understood well the pictures, your character is a photographer), and from a photographer’s perspective. This is an interesting game, appealing. It is very possible that no one except a photographer is able to understand another photographer’s life, capture the truly important moments, the key scenes of his life, be it a relevant person or a simple district photographer as it is the case here. For sure it also acts in your favor that you have in front of you a photographer, he then knows the moment, the instants, which poses can be the best or the worse at the moment of telling a story. but this is also your merit, you chose the subject. Finally, I can only tell you that I really enjoyed your work and the final result that you reached. Those are strong pictures, intimates, and at the same time expressive, sincere, close.

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