Bruno Barbey said about himself, I seldom stay still. I walk around, always on the move. Indeed, the solo exhibition of his photographs at the National Museum in Warsaw shows the life of human communities observed by the artist on five continents, including countries such as Bangladesh, Brazil, China, Egypt, Iraq, Iran, Japan, Korea, Kuwait, Morocco, Mexico, Nigeria, Senegal, and Vietnam. The presentation will also feature photos reflecting the reality of Poland and Ukraine in the 1980s – a report from countries that would soon win their independence and become liberated from the USSR. The freedom demands pressed by both countries at the time are becoming of even greater importance in the context of the ongoing war across our eastern border.
The exhibition captures the unique character of the photographs, which stand out from the work of other members of the legendary Magnum Photos group, which Barbey joined at the age of 23. While most photographers in the 1960s took black-and-white photographs, the artist firmly rejected monochromatism. He was inspired by the history of painting and repeatedly voiced his admiration for Henri Matisse. In an equally pictorial manner, he built eye-catching compositions, which still dazzle viewers with their visual power. From a historical perspective, it is highly significant that Barbey drew on the power of colour in reportage photography, even though this used to be an area in which a wide and vivid colour palette was treated with distinct reserve for a long time. Barbey did not focus exclusively on a spectacular character of events – after all, they quickly become irrelevant – but above all on the timeless visual quality of the image. His style therefore consists of intense hues and sophisticated colour combinations.
The exhibition also contains original vintage prints, created at the same time as the events recorded on the negatives. The presentation will be complemented by objects related to the photographer’s work (his camera destroyed during the war, press passes) and publications – prestigious magazines illustrated with the photographs by Bruno Barbey, who wanted to show the world such events as student protests in France or political changes in Poland.