If you frequent local websites such as All Over Albany or even search for “Albany NY” on photo-sharing site Flickr, you’re bound to catch a glimpse of the excellent photography of Sébastien Barré. We were so excited when Sébastien agreed to put together a full photography show for the Uncommon Grounds Albany location featuring images from his series of “urban exploration” around the region. A transplant from France in the early 00s, “Seb” found his way to the Capital Region through his work as a biomedical engineer. We are selfishly glad he stuck around with us since we get to see our lives and the activities of those around us through the careful lens of such a talent.
Of special note for this show, aptly named “The Unnoticed“, Sébastien has assembled a book of the images which is now available for purchase in hard-cover or soft-cover format! This is a first for any of the Uncommon Grounds art shows and we are so happy that a memento of the occasion exists.
We fired some questions at Sébastien over email to find out a little bit more about his show and what it was like to embark upon his first physical art show, noting that until now, his work has primarily been seen online only. The show at UG Albany comes down on Tuesday, July 13th so stop by this weekend if you’d like to see this work in person. Or you could order the book which will last a lifetime…
Uncommon Grounds (UG): Noting that your photography has primarily been displayed online, what was the main spark of inspiration for putting together “The Unnoticed”?
Sébastien Barré (SB): I’m a goal oriented person. Every amateur photographer has different milestones; a few will remember the first time they developed their own film, others will reminisce when they started Black&White photography, many will think of the first time they bought a DSLR, etc. I have the feeling there is a point in time that everyone is bound to remember though, and that’s the first opportunity you get to show your work in a physical space.
I’m an Internet junkie, but I think it’s easy to underestimate how many people are off the grid, peacefully ignoring the flow of information we are subjecting ourselves to. Post after post, slideshow after slideshow, the pace at which we consume digital goods can be a bit daunting. This series of photos is about the impact of time on the places we love. My goal is to freeze a moment in a place’s history before it collapses into memory. Everything happens so fast online. If you think about it, committing this digital work to a physical support is not unlike slowing down time to give it a space to breathe, to give it an opportunity to be shared with people who are more comfortable looking at something tangible. At the same rate, by discarding this electronic intermediate chances are I can enable a stronger relationship between my work and an audience.
UG: What were some of the challenges you faced in putting together this show?
SB: This was a lot of work and I am grateful for all the help I received. I would recommend this experience to any photographer: I don’t think this is very difficult but it requires a fair amount of organization the first time around. I had seen my friends show one, two or maybe three pieces in galleries around town, but when Jennifer Maher offered me to fill the whole space I knew it would be an interesting ride.
I divided and conquered. I asked my friends to help me pick 30 good photo candidates, I talked to a few curators I knew, I browsed the web for hours, I visited a few galleries looking for the “right” mat, the “right” frame, the “proper” finish. There was a bit of trial and error involved of course, a lot of prints scrutinized before I was happy with the results. I also raided pretty much all the Michael’s in the Capital District to find the same 30 frames. UPS delivered all my mats to the wrong house, good times too. Picking 30 photos for the show was difficult: do you want to be uncompromising with your vision (if any), or are you trying to please people? Probably in between. At the end of the day, nothing compared to the sheer terror of hammering 30 picture hooks the night before the show: I’m terrible with my hands Thank God for friends.
UG: How did your perception of the images change when the prints arrived? Did you feel differently about the work when it arrived in physical form?
SB: I felt nervous but really happy about it. This was the best I could do in this time frame and I didn’t spare my efforts. Same goes for the photo book I’ve been working on.That warm feeling started when I picked up all the photos at McGreevy Prolabs downtown Albany. They looked pretty good on that support, I knew at this moment that I would not be ashamed of what I had to show. One afternoon I started to assemble everything together: photos, mat, frames, wires, etc. At the end of the weekend I had large piles of 11×14 frames all around my living room. That was it: out of millions of bits and pixels, I had summoned something I was impatient to share. I’ll let people be the judge of the art, but the object itself was, to me a digital “artist” pretty much, greater than the sum of its physical parts.
UG: Any other upcoming shows on the docket?
SB: Not at the moment. I would love for that show to find a new home. I think it will be at Spectrum 8 at some point, but if you are a curator, let me know. I was pretty busy the past few weeks finishing my first photo book, an extension to the show. This is something I had wanted to experiment with for a while now, as a photographer, and I feel good about this new physical form; 136 pages, about 110 full-page color photos. This is something I hope a few people will want to look at.