The Italian artist has become known for his iconic take on urban spaces, photographing cities, from the vantage point of a helicopter, with a custom large format camera which allows him to carefully
focus on specific areas, producing images that appear to be of miniature models.
Barbieri first developed an interest in photography in the early 1970s, focusing on artificial illumination in both European and Asian cities. He regularly travelled to China producing works that monitored the rapid development of the country. His detailed images of urban spaces developed into the site specific series over 10 years ago. Its instantly recognisable view on cities has, to date, included Rome, Las Vegas, Shanghai, New York, Bangkok, Venice, Mexico City, Tel Aviv, Brasilia and Amman, among others. Barbieri explains his experience of photographing London:
‘’The texture of London from above compared to other cities looks more like a living organism. I inevitably noticed the constant throbbing of the arteries, the lines of communication, in continuous dialogue with the land and buildings and the earth.'’
In site specific, Barbieri reinterprets urban spaces as we have never seen them before, distancing us from the human noise and hustle and bustle, presenting them to us instead as pristine, miniature renderings. For Barbieri, it is the shape of the contemporary metropolis which interests him, rather than a literal transcription of a city. Barbieri zooms in from a helicopter and manages to focus his lens on specific parts of the images, leaving others blurred; the image shifts and certain areas sharpen, giving a dream-like quality to his works.
“I began to use the helicopter to move away from the sound of the words, to see the city from a great distance, far away from the voices, as I want to understand the urban form,” explains Barbieri.
Whether reworking masterpieces from the Uffizi Gallery, capturing the majestic grandeur of the world’s great waterfalls, or reinterpreting towns and cities from above in site specific_ (which also includes film, in addition to photography), Barbieri showcases both natural and manmade landscapes from his own unique viewpoint. “I always wonder if our methods of perception are actually suitable to interpret reality,” says Barbieri. “Photography is immaterial, and yet it can be as strong as a philosophical statement.”