2019 Lenscratch Student Prize: Honorable Mention: Tabitha Barnard
It is with great excitement that we honor Tabitha Barnard, Massachusetts College of Art and Design, MFA Candidate, with an Honorable Mention in the 2019 Lenscratch Student Awards. Thank you to our jurors Aline Smithson, Brennan Booker, Daniel George, Julia Bennett, Drew Nikonowicz, Sarah Stankey and Shawn Bush.
Her project, Sisterhood Summer, uses color, place, and gesture to draw us into the world of emerging womanhood, dripping with fertility and life. The series documents the secret space of sisters as they move through growing up in the woods of rural Maine as part of a deeply religious family. The photographs are a series of secrets, untold stories that question faith and adolescence presented with sumptuous color and metaphor.
Tabitha Barnard was born in Freedom, New Hampshire, in 1994. She is a photographer who grew up in rural Maine with three sisters. Growing up in a very Christian female-dominated family has had a huge influence on her work. She works primarily in analog color photography, exploring themes of femininity, religion, and ritual. She received her Bachelor of Fine Art from Maine College of Art in the Spring of 2016. In the summer of 2018, she was a finalist in the Lens Culture Art Photography awards and completed her first solo show at Speedwell Projects. Tabitha had recently been awarded the Gomma Grant from Gomma Books and had work accepted to an emerging artists exhibition at Aperture Gallery in New York. She currently works as the media technician at the Maine College of Art and will attend Massachusets College of Art as a masters candidate in the coming fall.
Growing up in a small town in rural Maine, my contact with others was limited. I was raised alongside three sisters and lived in a close-knit religious culture where sexuality was never mentioned. As children, we created elaborate fantasy games and tried to find every Bible passage we could about powerful women and witches. The forbidden nature and the ritual of the occult fascinated us. Our household was staunchly Christian, I witnessed the demonization of sexuality and femininity in our church, yet I was surrounded by powerful feminine energy. When she was fourteen, my youngest sister called for a meeting between the four of us. For the last four years, I have made images that document my sisters in their unique transitions to womanhood. As a young woman, I watched while girls changed from children to objects sexualized by older men. My photographs explore religion and the community I created with my sisters, lifting a veil on a formerly intimate and private exchange between the four of us. In our religious cult of womanhood, there exists a theater of eternal youth and femininity. We are confrontational while on display, creating a fantasy world in the forests and seascapes of Maine.
Congratulations on your Lenscratch Student Prize! What’s next for you? What are you thinking about and working on?
The next step I’m taking in my career is attending graduate school. I will be a masters candidate at Massachusetts College of Art and Design in the fall of 2019. This is something I’ve been working towards for the last three years and I’m so excited to be a student again. I’m still interested in photographing my sisters but as I move from Maine to Massachusetts I want to start documenting the lives of the women in my extended family. Photographing women is so important to me and something I’m always thinking about expanding upon in terms of my own work. Diversifying how the art world views the feminine experience is so important to me and continuing to show my own personal experience with adolescence and womanhood through my family is how I plan to continue making work in the near future.
Tell us about your growing up and what brought you to photography….
I grew up in a very religious, Christian family in rural Maine. My sisters and I were always interested in art, theater, and music and my immediate family always supported all of our endeavors. Growing up in a religious community I met a lot of wonderful people and found that some of the vivid imagery of the bible inspired me. But at the same time, I also heard a lot of rhetoric from specific people in the church that felt so anti-woman and condemning growth and feminine sexuality. I started photographing my junior year in high school when I got my first DSLR for my birthday. Because I really enjoyed being theatrical I began constructing scenes with the people around me, my sisters. In undergrad, I realized our adolescent experience was not one everyone shared. I began using photography as a tool to reveal a once private part of my life and help people understand my experience being one of four sisters transitioning to womanhood.
We are always considering what the next generation of photographers are thinking about in terms of their careers after graduation. Tell us what the photo world looks like from your perspective. What you need in terms of support from the photo world? How do you plan to make your mark? Have you discovered any new and innovative ways to present yourself as an artist?
Right now I love seeing how many opportunities there are for emerging photographers. I feel in the last two years I’ve been exposed to so much work by new artists and had more and more platforms open up to me and my peers. I do wish there was more support for emerging photographers financially though. Something myself and many of the young artists around me struggle with is being accepted to a show then required to pay for professional framing, shipping costs, and printing costs with no offer of financial support. There seems to be this inherent assumption that if you’re working in the art world you have money. I’ve seen this assumption of financial privilege prevent many talented photographers from even applying for grants and shows. And finally, I think access is just so important for photographers. Having more community photo spaces and making them less exclusive and more accessible for young photographers is so important so that they can engage with the medium again. A local photography space in Portland, Maine called The Bakery has been working really hard to become more inclusive and offer more access, internships to students, and community classes. It’s spaces like this that offer the support emerging artists really need right now.
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2019 Lenscratch Student Prize: Honorable Mention: Nick DrainJuly 28th, 2019
2019 Lenscratch Student Prize: Third Place: Reuben RaddingJuly 24th, 2019