Tina Barney High School Band,

2017, © Tina Barney Courtesy Paul Kasmin Gallery

tina barney's rediscovered photographs of 80s new england

Barney spent decades shooting the fashionable elite and fancy estates. For her new exhibition, 'Landscapes,' she headed out on a North East road trip.

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Jan 17 2018, 9:36pm

Tina Barney High School Band,

2017, © Tina Barney Courtesy Paul Kasmin Gallery

Aside from color and scale, perhaps the signature characteristic of Tina Barney’s photographs is her sense of composition. The New York-born artist began photographing her East Coast tribe in her 20s, capturing Thanksgiving dinners, cocktail parties, and summer social rituals. (These large-format color portraits of upper-class families staged inside their stately homes have become Barney’s best-known pictures). Inspired by 17th-century Dutch and Italian Renaissance paintings, Barney structures her photographs with intent, even though her compositional choreography often feels natural. Her images are not quite candid, but true.

Tina Barney, Fun Slide, 2017, © Tina Barney Courtesy Paul Kasmin Gallery

Last year, Barney released an excellent Rizzoli monograph, a four-decade-spanning collection that also includes street photography and fashion commissions. While putting the book together, Barney re-discovered something different: late-80s landscapes she’d made in Rhode Island. “I saw them and decided: I’m going to try this again,” she recently told T magazine.

Tina Barney, The Red Church, 2017, © Tina Barney, Courtesy Paul Kasmin Gallery

Today, Barney opens Landscapes, an exhibition of new and never-before-seen photographs, at New York’s Paul Kasmin Gallery. Those re-discovered early works — summery scenes of New England tennis courts, thunderstorms, beaches, and streets — sit alongside brand-new ones. Barney spent weekends driving through Rhode Island and Connecticut with her 8x10 view camera, scouting locations along the way.

Tina Barney, 4th of July on Beach, 1989, © Tina Barney Courtesy Paul Kasmin Gallery

Landscapes seems like a departure for Barney. The scenes were photographed outside. Several images (a Fourth of July bike parade, marching band practice, sunbathers on a rocky shore) were made from a distance, and an elevated perspective. When people do appear, they aren’t looking straight through Barney’s lens. They’re often not looking at it all.

Tina Barney, Bay Street, 1988, © Tina Barney Courtesy Paul Kasmin Gallery

Yet this new work is still profoundly shaped by Barney’s sense of color, detail, and American-ness. She recently explained to The New York Times why, while studying at the Sun Valley Center for Arts and Humanities in Idaho, she decided to photograph her family and friends back east. “I had a fear that it was all going to disappear — these places, these small towns, where you could walk into anyone’s house and grab a cookie out of a cookie jar.”

‘Tina Barney: Landscapes’ is on view at Paul Kasmin Gallery through March 3, 2018. More information here.

Tina Barney, Tennis Court, 1988, © Tina Barney Courtesy Paul Kasmin Gallery
Tina Barney, Drive-In, 2017, © Tina Barney Courtesy Paul Kasmin Gallery
Tina Barney, Bike Parade, 2017, © Tina Barney Courtesy Paul Kasmin Gallery
Tina Barney, The River, 2017, © Tina Barney Courtesy Paul Kasmin Gallery
Tina Barney, Thunderstorm, 1988 © Tina Barney Courtesy Paul Kasmin Gallery
Tina Barney, The Rocks, 2017 © Tina Barney Courtesy Paul Kasmin Gallery