Exteriors, Interiors, and Positionality: The Photography of Tina Barney
Van Scoy, Susan A.
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In the late 1970s, a critically celebrated new"art" photography surfaced, characterized by large-scale, directed photographs, or tableaux, and identified in work by Jeff Wall, Thomas Ruff, and Jean-Marc Bustamante. However, for the past 30 years, American photographer Tina Barney has also created large, color tableaux featuring her upper class family and friends using a snapshot aesthetic. While critics and journalists have evaluated Barney's work only in terms of her wealthy background and family portraiture, I believe that her photography is an exemplar of the modern-day hybrid tableau form. By identifying and analyzing the various art historical sources in Barney's photographs, this dissertation explores the relationship between painting and photography that is particular to the tableau form. Besides comparative analyses with sources such as seventeenth-century Dutch genre painting, feminist Impressionist painting, and European portrait painting as well as other tableau photographers such as Thomas Struth, Jeff Wall, and Rineke Dijkstra, I broaden our perspective of Barney's work by introducing original biographical research including her exposure to a world-famous art collection acquired by her relatives, her rephotography training by landscape photographers, and her experience as a female image-maker in a male-dominated genre. As a result, Barney's photographs forge a combination of representational, intentional artwork, based on the composition of well-known paintings in the art historical canon, with an inherent indexicality of location and culture that hinges on the audience's reaction, creating an intertextual matrix that plots the social relationships, or positionality, of the subject, Barney, and the viewer.