Richard Barnes’ recent photographic pursuits have centered on two distinct bodies of work, linked by their relationship to natural history. The first series represents an ongoing investigation into the ways museums classify and display information, and de- and re-contextualize objects, thereby altering their meaning and value. The second body of work, developed during his fellowship at the American Academy in Rome in 2006, investigates the bizarre and fantastic effects of swarms of starlings flying over the city.
In a series of photographs taken at natural history museums in Washington DC, San Francisco, Paris, and Ottawa, Barnes reveals the `behind the scenes’ processes through which museums recreate a context for artifacts. Images of natural history dioramas in construction and taxidermic animals in storage are surreal and compelling, as the real and simulated coexist in an ambiguous space.
The series titled “Murmur” follows thousands of starlings as they fly above Rome and its suburbs in the fall and winter. These photographs capture the birds’ breathtaking aerial displays as they swoop and swarm at twilight in astonishing and somewhat sinister formations.