“I wasn’t breaking rules; I was actually making up my own.”
For most of her career the eighty-year-old, Chicago based photographic artist Barbara Kasten has ignored the documentary aspects of her craft, instead the creation of non-representational stand-alone images has been front of mind.
As she told Bomb Magazine’s Leslie Hewitt “My introduction to photography was not an academic one. I took one class to learn the basics; after that, it was more of a hands-on relationship. To push the boundary of photography has never been my motivation; I am interested in how it can be united with other disciplines... I had no restrictions on how to approach photography. I felt free to incorporate any of these concepts into my thinking.”
In fact, Kasten has turned the traditional concepts behind photography on their head in the pursuit of her own vision.
As she explained to ArtForum’s Andrianna Campbell “Light is the essence of photography, but it is not what I am after. The important thing about light, to me, is not how it falls on an object, but how the shadow is created. I am photographing the shadow, and not the object that is creating the shadow. I am after another form—one that defines reality, but it is not reality.”
It is the principle that has driven Kasten’s work.
“In the 1980s and ’90s, when I showed at the John Weber Gallery in New York, I wasn’t looking at photography for inspiration. I wasn’t trying to break any of the “rules” of photography. I was just looking for a way to combine my interests in sculpture and photography—photography not as way of documenting sculpture but as a way to make a new work. For me, these media function side by side, not as cause and effect.”
And today in the digital age the octogenarian photographer is heartened that her baton is being picked up others as they pursue their dreams of what the medium can be.
About which she has said “My work is being discovered by a group of people who are half my age and are looking at photography in a much more open-minded manner. It doesn’t all have to be done through the camera. I think the creative spirit of the day is more toward individualism, and that fuels younger people to see how they can put their own twist into this medium. We are looking at the essentials and not looking at traditional prescriptions… The Internet and digital technologies are providing fertile ground for artists today. Photography is now an even broader category, and whether or not these practitioners are photographers is an open question.”
A major survey of Kasten’s work Stages is currently on show at Los Angeles' MOCA Pacific Design Center until the 14th of August.