Read an exclusive interview with Jeff Bark
Jeff Bark’s moody, monumental photographs plumb the depths of a collective human experience in the manner of history painting’s grand masters, from Titian to Jacques-Louis David. Bark’s dark and dreamy vision explores the various dynamics of human relationships both toward one another and in relation to the mysterious, often elusive natural world around them. He is celebrated both for his sensual aesthetic and his technical mastery of the medium, which elevates the practice of photography by way of a singular, unique artistry. Each of his meticulous compositions is informed by a strange, Surrealist sense of atmosphere and narrative. He unites moments of eerie calm and deep chasms of drama in an ambiguous and ghostly world that seems almost familiar, but not quite, existing just beyond the reach of consciousness.
Miraculously evocative though they may be, raw and organic, Bark does not leave his photographs at the whim of environmental elements. He is instead driven to shape, and then perfect, every detail of every scene he creates, building his sets with his own hands from the ground up—transforming the bare walls of his studio into a lurid dreamscape, a languorous moment of passion, or a clandestine wood. He also draws from the tradition of still-life to explore the complex nuances of life on a closer, more intimate scale. Full of suggestive details and suffused with atmospheric lighting, Bark’s photographs read as suspended narratives—about our innermost drives and our fragile place in the world.
Jeff Bark was born in 1963 in Minnesota and later attended the Brooks Institue for visual arts studies. He began photographing in the 1980s, developing a vigorous career as a fashion photographer for publications like Vogue and commercially for such companies as Victoria’s Secret, later shooting for such innovative publications as Dazed and Confused Magazine. He now channels the traditions of grand manner and still life painting exploring the earthly and sublime, the fleshly and psychological in his lush, meticulously composed photographs. Bark is included in such renowned collections as the North Carolina Museum of Art, the Wilson Centre of Photography, the Sir Elton John Collection, and the 21st Century Museum, in Louisville, Kentucky. His photographs were recently included in the group exhibition “No Fashion, Please!” at Austria’s Kunsthalle Wien. He is now based in New York City where he continues to photograph.