Pierre Baroni lives and works in Melbourne primarily as a radio announcer and DJ but also as a photographer. He started out designing record covers in 1990 and progressed to photography shortly after, taking shots of the people he was designing record covers for. He has a very unique style to say the least. I came across his work in the Geoffrey Stapleton Gallery on the night of the Cabaret opening. In short it captured my eye his large black and white shots show case the subjects in a way I have not seen before. It is the way he frames his subject that primarily makes the shot work. The tones highlight his subject and show cases them. The Adelaide Cabaret Festival shots adopt a kind of old world carnival theme with singers, escape artists, illusionists and painters.
“Seppo 2012” is a portrait of a tattooed individual; his chest is uncovered revealing a myriad of thorny body art. He is further adorned with piercings and jewellery; primal elements connecting with a tribal understanding. The contrasting light within this work draw our gaze toward the face. A face scarred and marked with ink. Baroni has allowed the portrait to rest in shadow. Deep tones frame the face and even the subject’s eyes are draped in darkness. Yet through the dim tone cast by the subject’s hat one can see a watery reflection in the eyes. One of the features of Baroni’s photography is that he highlights the subject’s eyes. When we can see a person’s eyes they are allowing us in, to get closer and revel something of who they are. Seppo seems a thoughtful character, one who has had a lot of experiences.
Bromley 2011 captures the Cabaret Festival artist David Bromley at work in his studio. Again the use of strong contrast drags our eyes about the work. It has been framed with shadow, and the focal point is on the artists face. It is here that we eventually connect with the subject. Baroni has used depth of field by opening the aperture of the lens to keep the profile of Bromley’s face in focus and let the rest of the frame remain blurred. Naturally our eye settles in this space. Baroni has also taken note of how the subject must be lit. Background light highlights the edge of Bromley’s chin. This photograph has been wonderfully balanced with light and tone. This work allows me to connect with what the artist is thinking, the relaxed concentration in his eyes and soft grip of his brush reveal a precious moment in the busy life of an artist.
“Max” is a child that features twice in this photo shoot and here again depth of field has been used to keep the subjects eyes in focus allowing the rest of the shot to become blurred. I love the tonal variation in this work, the way the light reflects off of various surfaces and the way the subject has been framed. When I stood before this work I was able to connect with the subject in a way that evoked a lot of emotion. There is an element of childhood innocence that people can connect with, especially if they have children.
Pierre Baroni proudly confesses that he is untrained in the art of photography. While this may be true he is certainly skilled in his ability to frame a shot. The way he balances his subject, what he allows into the frame and the way the tonal qualities have been accentuated reveal to me that he may have more understanding than he lets on. One thing that is apparent in his work is that he breaks many “rules”, some of his subjects are out of focus, drifting away in the shot. Baroni’s work is beautiful in that it reveals the subject with honesty. The people he photographs may well be superstars but the reality is they are still fragile in their humanity.
This exhibition is one to see in the flesh. The large C-type prints are the way all photographs should be displayed. It is on at Geoffrey Stapleton Gallery until the 24th of June.