Tim Barnsley – Photographer

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When did you first get behind the lens?
My passion for photography began as a 10-year-old, when I started documenting school excursions and family life with a basic Kodak ‘film’ camera in primary school.



I learned how to process black and white film and paper in a high school photography class and was instantly drawn to the magic of watching an image appear on photographic paper in a developing tray under the glow of a red safe lamp.

After high school, I studied photography and fine art, and this brought me a step closer to becoming a professional photographer in the late 1980s and a photojournalist in 1993, when I began working for Rural Press (now Fairfax Media). I spent 19 years working at newspapers, before moving to Vietnam in 2009. Since then, I have been shooting images for various newspapers and magazines, as well as commercial photography for local, national and international clients.

What areas of photography do you enjoy the most?

I have always been drawn to photojournalism, because still images capture and preserve moments in time in ways that moving images cannot. I find the realism of photojournalism captivating, because it captures the beauty of the mundane and everyday, as well as extreme and unusual events that many people never experience. My favourite photographers are Larry Burrows, James Natchway, Philip Jones Griffiths, Horst Faas, Greg Marinovich and Eddie Adams.

Most of them were war photographers and I find their work fascinating, because they document the best and worst of humanity.

Tell us about your up and coming photography exhibition at NERAM?

My exhibition at NERAM will open from March 30 – May 6. It is a selling exhibition called Chup Anh, which translates as “to take a photograph” or “to be photographed”. The exhibition is a part of a broader collection of work that came about from my time living in Vietnam with my family and reflects how much I loved Vietnam and its people. We spent almost two years living in Ho Chi Minh City (Saigon) and travelled around Vietnam and Cambodia.

My wife was working at an international school and while my children were at school during the day, I was able to travel around southern Vietnam on my motorbike documenting everyday life. The traffic is a good metaphor for life in Vietnam, because while it looks chaotic, disorganised and dangerous (and sometimes is), there is a pattern and order that only emerges when you become part of it. I got my motorbike licence, which gave me the ability to slip into the stream of 8 million other riders and the freedom to see life at street level.

Despite being a six-foot, slightly overweight Westerner, I was able to ‘blend in’. A Vietnamese friend, Mr Anh, joked that you could only be a ‘Saigonist’ if you’d lived in Ho Chi Minh City (Saigon) for 12 months and had passed your motorbike licence test.

Describe your favourite shots?

Most of my work is about people. While I can appreciate the beauty of landscape photography, it’s not really my thing. I love being around and interacting with people from all walks of life and hearing their stories. That forms the basis of my work, which ranges from portraits of a triple amputee, landmine victim who sold books at the War Remnants Museum, to being lucky enough to be the only foreign press photographer covering the New Zealand Prime Minister, John Keys’ visit to Ho Chi Minh City. Some of my favourite images from Vietnam will be in my exhibition, but to pick favourites is like picking your favourite songs – sometimes you love different images depending on the mood or the memories they bring back.

Have you won awards?

I have won several Country Press awards, a Save the Children Fund national competition, a Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS) award and a United Nations’ Human Rights Print Media award, which raised awareness of the difficulties faced by people with disabilities.

Are you available to take photos?

I am currently working as a full-time freelance photographer, working with clients that include The Australian, The Daily Telegraph, The Age, The Sydney Morning Herald as well as rural businesses, media, schools and government agencies.

I love the variety that working as a photographer brings and people can contact me by phone on 0408 674 093 or via my website: http://timbarnsley.zenfolio.com/

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