ARTIST: BARBARA MICHELMAN
Photographer Barbara Michelman began her career working in Hollywood in film lighting. One of the first women in the field she worked in all the major studios. Her work ranges from traditional photography, to the more experimental fine art digital imaging and alternative process printing. She has exhibited in the United States and Europe and is in corporate and private collections on both continents.
In 1990 when all the governments in Eastern Europe were collapsing I took my Nikon F2, three lenses and set off to capture a moment in history. I traveled that late winter to nearly all the eastern bloc nations as the great experiment in economic and social engineering unraveled. Along with the regimes, so too, the infrastructure; cathedrals, castles, ancient bridges, cobbled streets, were all crumbling and covered in soot. And superimposed on every place I visited, a soviet dictated socialist realist art and architecture that stood oppressively over everything. An ideology was collapsing under the weight of its own corruption leaving as it’s effluent — poverty and a stunning polluted mess.
I photographed that world in black and white, trying to capture how it felt that late cold winter and came home committed to photographing the landscape trying to talk about beauty, sanctity and humanity with my work.
Living here, west of the Divide, I thought then, that we weren’t at the end yet , at least not in the way Eastern Europe was, but the loss of humanism in our social policies and economics, driven solely by unbridled industrialization, along with diminishing resources, could well take us to that place.
In the last quarter of a century, new conflicting ideologies vie on the global stage for primacy. I have come back to shooting black and white because there is something in the air that feels not terribly different from my time in Eastern Europe. The gap between fact and fiction in our political discourse continues to widen. And The shrill rhetoric dominating the airwaves extolling our “exceptionalism” colludes against seeing the crumbling hollow façades or the storm on the horizon.
These images are a conversation about our legacy. They are my comment on time, our human hand and what may or may not lie beyond.