Barnaby James Constant Kent grew up in a “very expressive and artistic house,” in a small village in the Suffolk countryside. His musically talented parents encouraged Barnaby and his brother to paint and draw as children, but as Barnaby admits, “I always gave up because he was better.” Luckily, Barnaby’s father, a photography hobbyist, afforded him yet another creative outlet outside of music. Barnaby describes, “I wasn’t good enough at the theory side of music to go on and study that so i just picked up Dad’s old camera, took several photographs and decided thats what I wanted to do.” Barnaby was sixteen years old when he asked his father how to use his camera and since then has developed an aesthetic and style that recently earned him Photographer’s Forum Magazine: Best of College & High School Photography award. Barnaby is currently studying at the University of Brighton to earn a B.A. in Photography, and says, “I guess you could say that at the moment I photograph ethereal, yet real moments.
When I was finishing up my final project at university I’d wake up, have a slice of burnt toast, then hobble across slippery cobblestones to a windowless library. When Barnaby Kent woke up on the days that he was working on his graduate project he awoke lying on a bed of luscious leaves in the jungle, and he’d have fresh passionfruit for breakfast before taking a walk in the mountains. It’s no wonder that his work is so magical.
For the Brighton graduate, going on adventures and traveling the world IS his work, which sounds like the dreamiest job ever. His photographs are breathtakingly stunning, particularly his intriguing graduate project which focuses on the community of a teacher training college in Papua New Guinea. We can’t wait to see the places that Barnaby will go next, and to see more of the world through his very perceptive lens.
Why or who or what made you go to art school?
It was a fairly natural development from A Levels. It was either art or drama school.
Tell us about your best project.
My best project so far is my graduate project, I was fortunate enough to go to Papua New Guinea for a bit and I came back with this project (and more, I’m still sifting through the photographs now.) It was a completely different approach to producing work; I had limited resources, I was away from everything I had done before and everything around me was exciting and challenging.
The project focuses on the community of a teacher training college in the Western Highlands of Papua New Guinea. Holy Trinity Teachers’ College is a space where westernised education and development intersect with traditional lifestyles, beliefs and languages. Within the college community tribal constructs of gender, religion, time and fashion now blend with western influences. This dichotomy between the college bringing education, Catholicism and development but also encouraging students and local villagers to share their cultural traditions represents this period of transition in Papua New Guinea.
Tell us about your worst.
There have been some shockers… Well there was Foundation, where drawing was fun but my photographs were rubbish. But I needed that so I would work harder. I remember not being very pleased with any of the work I produced in my second year, I tried to push conceptual narrative and in turn it was all very self involved and just a bit naff.
If you could show one person your portfolio, who would it be and why?
I’d like to have a “Ping Pong Conversation” with Alec Soth. I picked up a copy of his book with Francesco Zanot before Christmas. His project is incredible, all his work is, and he’s inspired me throughout university. I’d also like to give him a run for his money with the ping-pong paddle.
What was the best moment of your three years at uni (extra curricular included)?
Going away to shoot my grad project in Papua New Guinea. I got to see my parents. I photographed every day and I ate passion fruit every morning. I met lots of amazing people and made lots of friends. I slept in the jungle under the stars and I climbed the highest mountain with my Dad. It’s definitely the best thing I have ever done.
A lot is changing – would you recommend art school to someone who is considering going?
I’m not sure. This year’s graduates are the last from the era of cheaper fees, so it’s a different ball game now. I personally loved my time at art school; I’ve met some great people, had some brilliant tutors and had access to equipment and facilities that have helped me to develop my work. I don’t know whether it’s worth the new fees though, I would probably recommend someone to study a craft and use photography within it.
Finally, if your dreams come true, where will you be in a year’s time?
I’d like to start working commercially while maintaining my own practice; a mix of editorial and travel would be ideal. I’d also like to think I would have started working on a book of my Papua New Guinea work.