Here at W+K London we are lucky enough to have a spacious staircase that is whitewashed and perfect for displaying artwork. This month we are privileged to be exhibiting the work of photographer Sam Barker.
Sam began his career in the late '90s at the London School of Printing. It was here he developed the distinctive style that gained him recognition from The Guardian and The Telegraph and subsequently worldwide publishing houses and advertising agencies. His work also features in the National Portrait Gallery permanent collection and has earned him numerous awards.
Barker’s most recent search for subject matter has taken him further afield to Iraq, Columbia and Bhutan. It was last year’s trip to Ethiopia’s Omo Valley that inspired the series of pictures we have on display here. During this journey he encountered three indigenous tribes and the resulting photographs attempt to capture a sense of their culture, utilising Sam’s distinctive photography technique.
The pictures themselves offer a glimpse into a distinctly foreign world, shaped largely by the tribe’s environment and lifestyle. Clever use of lighting, a famous feature of Sam’s work, sets off figures against indistinct, sometimes eerie expanses of bush land. Bright white skin paint and traditional garments reflect brightly, as do foreground trees and shrubs. Bold postures and displayed weapons remind us that, while these people are mysterious and beautiful, they’re not models.
‘These people are not models, they are warriors who have killed… they are mothers, grandmothers, children.’
He explores the relationship between camera, sitter and lights, an alien experience for the tribespeople of the Omo Valley and perhaps responsible for the weary expressions worn by some of the sitters. Above all Sam seeks ‘to convey the dignity of the Omo tribespeople and the power they seem to wield’. In our minds he achieves this with great effect.
You can see more of Sam’s work here.