Photographer Barbara Vaughn was born in Philadelphia, PA. She earned her BA from Princeton University and studied fine art photography at the International Center of Photography in New York City. Following college, photographer Barbara Vaughn spent several years in the corporate world before deciding to pursue her long-time passion for photography. She attended the International Center of Photography in NYC, and launched her portraiture business in 1992. After two decades of commissioned figurative and representational work, her interest shifted dramatically, and she began shooting a new series of work inspired by Cubism, Surrealism, and Abstract Expressionism. The subject matter of this new series is water, more precisely reflections of common scenes captured in undulating water, distorted by its movement, and frozen by the camera.
A former portrait photographer, Vaughn has photographed many luminaries in entertainment, business, and the arts. Her work has been published in numerous books as well as publications such as The New York Times, Time, Vanity Fair, Vogue, and Art in America. Her fine art has been exhibited in galleries in New York City; Sun Valley, ID; St. Barth’s; Quogue, NY; San Francisco; and Sonoma County, CA. Vaughn is based in New York City and San Francisco.
My waterscape photographs present a juxtaposition of real and surreal, and the resulting ambiguity invites us to decipher the truth. Drawn by the magnetism of water and the mystery of abstraction, I've endeavored to marry the two in one frame by capturing reflections of ordinary scenes in moving water. Distortion from undulation, not Photoshop, renders the resulting images unfamiliar to us. Motion and chance combine to create a new and fleeting reality, frozen by my camera. This unexpected, coincidental confluence of nature and the man-made world deconstructs the recognizable, and engages the viewer’s power of imagination.
— BARBARA VAUGHN
My Waterscape series sprang from time spent in costal environments, where I discovered ever-changing abstract imagery, dancing on the surface of the water.
In city environments, my quest for abstraction led me to unnoticed urban landscapes- gritty walls of layered posters, advertisements, billboards and graffiti, in varying states of deterioration. These pre-exiting tableaux evoke collages, with their torn edges, visible glue, and arbitrary compositions.
The Cubists began the practice of incorporating found materials into their work. The evolution of collage continued with Rauschenberg and Motherwell, and has been most notably explored today by Mark Bradford. While I adore this thought-provoking artistic medium, I did not create the collages in my photographs. I am an urban archeologist seeking and documenting their organic existence and ever-changing conditions.
The works in this series are carefully composed photographs of these environments as I found them. The layers of transformation and glimpses at the past invite our own interpretations and narrative.
The genesis for the following work stems from my long-standing interest in Classical history, languages, and art. During a visit to a historic estate in the UK, I was given access to the library, where I encountered an enormous tome from 1809 - over two feet high, weighing about forty pounds. I was fascinated not only with its notable age and scale, but with its contents - meticulous engravings cataloging the Classical and Hellenic sculpture in the Museé Francais, the precursor to the Louvre. These extraordinary pre-photography renderings not only documented some of the most beautiful sculptures from antiquity, but they were artwork themselves. I photographed many pages of the engravings, which form the basis for this body of work, and layered additional imagery to expand the narrative for these mythological and historical figures.
Urania, the Muse of Astrology, is pictured with the North and South stars, images from my grandparents’ 1934 Rand McNally Atlas. Ariadne’s pose shows her pining for Theseus, with a faint love letter in the clouds, and the horizon of Naxos, where he deserted her. Ardent lovers Eros (Cupid) and Psyche embrace behind a romantic Greek missive, and a vintage Greek stamp from my collection. Hartographia, the Greek word for cartography, depicts another vintage Atlas image, referencing considerable advancements to that science by the Greeks.
Placing together imagery from different contexts creates a link between past and present cultures, and highlights the role of photography in how we understand history and experience art.