Follow up research to Assignment 4 The language of Light

Uta Barth born 1958

My tutor suggested I look at her work following my Language of Light assignment; he commented that the way that she uses light as a subject matter rather than something concrete, helps to “develop your seeing eye so that finding photographs becomes freer and less dominated by subject matter”.(Trillo 2016).

Her photographs are both abstract and evocative, she “intentionally depicts mundane or incidental objects in nondescript surroundings in order to focus attention on the fundamental act of looking and the process of perception” (Anon 2012). She examines how the eye and the camera see differently and is most interested in what you can see when looking through a lens.

Ground and Field the work that gave her international attention, were “photographic blurs caused by focusing the camera on an unoccupied foreground; these lushly colored images tested connections between the descriptive clarity of photography and the haze of memory” (Anon 2011). Here as in much of her work, objects that would normally be in the background of a photograph are at the centre.


 Ground 12 (Barth, 2014)

In “…and to draw a bright white line with light” (2001) she manipulated the curtains in her home creating lines and curves of light that expand from a sliver to a wide ribbon across a sequence of large-scale, dramatically cropped images, that emphasis the pleasure of seeing.

Uta Barth white line

White Line. Installation view (The Art Institute of Chicago Photography, 2011)

Barth continues to explore the theme of perception in new and inventive ways, encouraging viewers like me to reconsider the traditional functions of the photographic image. Firstly I love her work, all of it that I’ve explored, but secondly I agree that her process is very freeing; taking a photograph of the act of seeing by removing a subject from the photograph in a setting that is both anonymous and familiar and eliminating all but the most universally abstract elements from the frame. I concur with Fallis (nd) that as photography is totally dependent on the visual, this is a good process for exploring the act of seeing and “by focusing on where the subject would be in a conventional photograph and by overtly calling the viewer’s attention to the absence of the subject Marth is, in effect, turning the viewer into the subject” (Fallis nd). Fascinating!

Keld Helmer-Peterson (1920 – 2013)

He was a pioneer of Danish modernist photography, photographed structures, patterns and details in cities, industrial areas and nature and his work became increasingly abstract. “Unlike documentary photographers, including Walker Evans or Dorothea Lange who infused their images with specific markers of time and place, Helmer-Petersen stripped his images of context, giving them an abstract, untethered feel”.(Hiatt 2014). He photographed in colour, most unusual for that time and aimed to illustrate “nothing whatever beyond the fact that we are surrounded by many beautiful and exciting things” (Anon, 2013).

Kled holmer peterson.jpg

Helmer- Peterson (Hiatt 2014)

Some of his subjects could seem to be picturesque clichés now, though they are always well composed in form and colour often where ordinary objects juxtapose and appear eerie  and mysterious.  His pictures “are remarkable not for what they depict but for what they are” (LIFE Magazine 1949).

I find his work a satisfying colour experience and another of enhancing the act of seeing in a very different way to Uta Barth.


Trillo, D (2016) Formative feedback assignment 4 Languages of Light.

 Anon (2012). Uta Barth Conceptual Photographer (Accessed 14.6.16). 

Anon (2011) Uta Barth May 14, 2011–August 16, 2011, Galleries 188–189, Art Institute Chicago  (Accessed 14.6.16). 

Fallis, G (nd) Sunday Salon with Greg Fallis (Accessed 14.6.16). 

The Art Institute of Chicago Photography (2011) The Art Institute of Chicago. (Accessed 14.6.16).

Barth, U (2014). The official Website. Ground 12 1992-93. (Accessed 14.6.16).

LIFE Magazine (1949) cited in Hiatt (2014) The Unknown Master of Color Photography. Timeless images from one of the earliest. (Accessed 14.6.16).

Poynor, R (2013) Keld Helmer-Petersen: Pioneer of Color.The design Observer Group. (Accessed 14.6.16).



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