I was interviewed by Paul Booth of The Coaster, a local Asbury Park area weekly newspaper. The article appeared in the February 18-24, 2010 edition. Here is the text from the article, reprinted with permission from The Coaster.
Life, Distilled Through an Artist’s Lens
By PAUL BOOTH
When he was a kid, Alan Barnett hated the beach. To him it was synonymous with piling into the family’s Buick LaSabre and traveling from his northern New Jersey home to Riis Park near the Far Rockaways in Queens, baking in the sun the entire way. Maybe a stop at Grandma’s on the way back to help with chores to boot.
“It was torture,” Barnett remembers. Times have changed for Barnett, a photographer and graphic designer who two years ago bought a home in the City by the Sea with his partner. Though he admits his preference would have been a cabin in the mountains, the beach, this city and its people, have since grown to be part of him and a source of inspiration for his art.
“It’s different here in Asbury Park,” Barnett said from his Fifth Avenue home, a fixer-upper he and his partner are still fixing up, surrounded by photographs of his own and work from others.
“What I have found out is that it’s not about the beach at all here really, ” he said. “The community is awesome. It’s all about the people and the friendships that make living here so special.”
Of course, the beach doesn’t hurt either. Especially for a portrait photographer such as Barnett, who tries to delve into the underlying emotions of his subjects.
“At the beach, your clothes come off and so do your inhibitions,” Barnett said. “People are more who they are whether they know they are showing it or not.”
For Barnett, who photographed Asbury Park’s firefighters as part of ArtsCAP’s Asbury Park 2010 Firefighters Calendar, photography is a fairly new endeavor.
He was nothing more than a self-professed point-and-shoot kind of guy until four years ago when, visiting friends in the French countryside, he was left for hours alone in a medieval fortress town when he began shooting mostly architectural shots. As an art director and manager of his own graphic design company, Barnett purchased photography often and, after reviewing the photos he’d taken, thought he recognized something, this time in himself.
So he enrolled at the International Center of Photography in New York City, where he and his partner maintain an apartment, and it has been a growing passion ever since.
Nowadays, he says he sees everything in photographic form.
“Everything I see could be a photograph, which is both good and bad,” he said.
Good because it is a compulsion he enjoys, bad because he can’t always have his camera with him.
“When I am speeding along the turnpike and really can’t take photos, I think about all the photos I have missed,” he said.
Fortunately, for all those he missed, he takes a few, too. And if he has his way, we will be treated to more of them in the future.
Barnett said he has plans to spend more time with Asbury Park’s firefighters and research the deeper question of what it means to be a firefighter.
“If you ask them, they’ll just say they’re doing their jobs, but what does it take to be a firefighter,” Barnett wonders and hopes to answer through photography and art, possibly an art book in the future.
“It takes a different kind of person to do this type of job, to throw themselves selflessly into it and risk their own lives,” Barnett said. “This is exactly the type of material that artists are looking for in a long-term project.”
Photo caption: For the last four years Alan Barnett of Asbury Park has concentrated on his passion for photography. He recently photographed Asbury Park firefighters for the 2010 calendar.