Barry Atwood: Fragments - Artist Statement & Bio
"The foundations of my photography include two ideas found in the work of Albert Einstein and Ray Bradbury. Albert Einstein taught us that the perspective of the observer can alter reality in many ways. Near the end of the Martian Chronicles, Ray Bradbury wrote that the Earthlings had created the most complete reality that the Martians had ever seen. Many of the elements of our perception of reality are universal, including the solids and voids that create positive or negative space, light, color, texture, transparency or opacity, and time. "Beginning at birth", Bradbury wrote, we are subjected to environmental acculturation, which teaches us how to interpret the meaning of these elements and creates a communal reality.
My work aspires to explore the components of the perceivable world to discover elements, which viewed from a unique perspective will expose a hidden or unexpected fragment of the greater ecosystem. I search for those pieces that make a comment on the nature of our shared reality or reveal the existence of an alternative explanation or reflection of the world. I believe that every person is unique and expresses their unique perspective and consequent interpretation of what reality is. While there are many ways to accomplish this goal, artistic expression offers us the opportunity to create a vision that fluctuates between an explicitly unambiguous statement and a more subtle open-ended image that evokes an individual interpretation.
Photography provides a vehicle to explore the world, searching for unseen or unnoticed perspectives on the fragments that make up our communal reality are essential to give us the context needed to understand it. Using ambient light, flash, reflector boards, shadow, color, and texture to isolate the subject from its context and helps give it meaning; In this way my work attempts to capture images that provoke a unique interpretation of reality in each observer."
-Barry Atwood, June 2021
Born in 1948, Barry Atwood was infected with Polio at age three and for the next three years was confined to an iron lung, unable to open or close his eyes. The sense of absolute helplessness had a lasting impact on his life, his art, and his drive for independence. In 1955, his grandfather was elected to the board of education, which enabled him to become the first disabled child to be mainstreamed into grade school, middle and high school. Later, he became the first full-time disabled student to attend the University of New Mexico and to live in the student dormitories.
Upon graduation, Atwood’s Grandfather gave him a camera and he enrolled in a photography class. The result has been his lifelong obsession with the power of photography to capture an instant in time and express the wide spectrum of meaning found in the image. He later moved to Los Angeles and worked as a photographer in the entertainment industry, until he was accepted as the first disabled student at the UCLA School of Architecture. The studios were located on the second floor, so his classmates carried him up and down the 27 steps to the second floor at least twice a day for two years; before an elevator was installed.
After finishing at UCLA, Atwood worked as a consultant on a wide range of architectural projects, including making private buildings or facilities accessible to individuals with disabilities and providing accommodations that facilitated the employment of the disabled. Meanwhile, he used photography as the primary outlet for his creative impulse and began a lasting infatuation with the natural world and photographing landscapes. Combining his economic and artistic lives led him to join the US Access Board, working on the committee that created accessibility related specifications regulating the design and construction of trails serving the natural world. In recent years he has discovered the city as a subject, with a focus on making abstract images using elements found in the urban environment.
Recently, the pandemic forced the closure of his office and his deteriorating health has forced him to retire. The cost of living in the Bay Area is high and Social Security is very limited, which has created several economic burdens. However, his art is the refuge from the storm and sharing his visions with an audience is a bright light feeding his soul.