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A Conversation with Visionary Photographer Barbara Cole

Visionary artist Barbara Cole is renowned for revolutionizing photography since the 1980s. With her work shown internationally, Cole has been recognized with several notable awards in her field.

She recently unveiled her solo showcase, Between Forms, at Boston’s esteemed Pellas Gallery. She sat down with us to delve into her latest artistic journey.

Barbara, how is life treating you these days?

I’m grateful to say I’m in high spirits. Navigating through the initial chaos of the pandemic was a challenge, especially since it halted my ability to pursue photography. The unease among models and creative collaborators was palpable. However, times have changed, safeguards like vaccinations are in place, and the creative process is once again in full swing.

Your Boston exhibition, Between Forms, draws from what source of inspiration?

Working with Pellas Gallery, we handpicked a selection of pieces from my oeuvre that highlight my perpetual intrigue with water—as a transformative and malleable element. By pulling together various series, this exhibition ignites a fresh conversation within my evolving collection, embracing the ephemeral nature of time.

What goes into preparing for an exhibit like this?

The journey to a new body of work always starts with the thrill of a new concept. I often envision the end result, then embark on the adventure of making it a reality. Articulating my ideas verbally is the first hurdle. Building something monumental is a step-by-step process of persistence and discovery, a code cracking of sorts, especially since I’m self-educated in this art form.

Have any particular challenges arisen with this exhibit?

The perpetual conundrum is conveying the essence of my work to the audience. My artistry, primarily executed through the camera lens, often raises curious questions—does water have to resemble the shade of the ocean? It’s about crafting exceptional pieces for those who collect my work. Embarking on my first solo exhibit in New England and introducing photography to Pellas Gallery are adventures rather than obstacles.

London Gardens

Where does your fascination with aquatic elements stem from?

My affinity for aquatic photography is rooted in my desire to paint with my camera rather than document. Water provides levity and distinctive movement possibilities to my subjects, aligning perfectly with my artistic vision.

What’s on the horizon for you in 2022?

I’m excitedly immersed in an underwater series titled Beat, which allows my subjects to express unrestricted freedom beneath the waves—a fitting theme for our times. Behind the scenes, I’m wrapping up Shadow Dancing, a culmination of 11 years of mastering the wet collodion process. I aim to infuse this traditional technique with my unique artistic voice, reminiscent of the vibrancy found in early color films.

Any thoughts on the current surge of NFT art?

Innovation is key in art, so I’m examining ways to make a significant contribution to the NFT realm. I wish to offer something that’s more than just a fleeting trend but a true extension of my creative principles.

If you could share one piece of advice with an emerging photographer, what would it be?

Simple but profound—do you have a fervent passion for photography?

It’s been a delight, Barbara. Thank you for the time!

Between Forms is on exhibit at the Pellas Gallery until February 24th.

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