Her photographs are arrestingly beautiful, dreamy and look as if they had been painted by a masterful hand with a paintbrush. Indeed it appears as if Barbara Tyroler literally paints with her camera. Her scintillating underwater-themed photographs are achieved by manipulating her camera’s shutter speeds, and by placing “fun house” type mirrors underwater so they not only reflect the underwater landscape and figures, but the reflective images on the water’s ceiling as well. The results are rich with movement, color, reflection, refraction and light. Tyroler said her prints are not Photoshopped or manipulated digitally, but are single image photographs taken with her Nikon camera and printed on fine art photographic substrate.
She calls this years-long series of photographs “water portraits,” and her subjects have been family, friends, clients and colleagues who find refuge, support, healing or delight in water. “In my portraits, we find a combination of water, which is life, and light, that is what the camera takes in. One might say that the action of light on water ‘distorts’ the human body,” said Tyroler. But she wants to reverse the negative connotation of the word “distort.”
“I want these images to give it a positive meaning, to make distortion a vehicle of social and ultimately human awareness,” she said. “We are all equally ‘distorted’ by immersion in water. There is an equality in this kind of shared distortion, a grace it bestows on all which in turn can produce a sense of shared inclusiveness.”
Tyroler wants the viewer to experience the intrinsic beauty of the human body refracted into shapes of watery luminosity. She says, “Each image freezes a moment in the flow of time. The microsecond captured by my camera becomes a memory in a human story that has reached that point and will continue beyond it.”
She also said she believes photography has a unique position in the arts as a truth-telling medium. “Essential to that truth telling are the stories that led up to my clicking the shutter. These emerge from interviews with the participants that helped shape the final images,” she said. “That is where much of the pleasure of the work lies.”
Barbara Tyroler considers herself a photographer first, an educator, an artist, with emphasis on social or activist art, an arts administrator, an entrepreneur and a business woman, which she considers part of being a commercial photographer. “But,” she said, “I consider myself more in terms of leading a balanced life, one where the professionalism blends nicely into my role as a parent and spouse. My family is most important to my identity and the fact that I have balanced both family and profession is significant to me.”
Tyroler teaches classes occasionally at Duke University, as well as private workshops in portfolio development and critique in photography. She has written more than 30 grants to provide educational experiences for children and families specializing in art as an educational intervention for leadership, self-exploration and self-development. This summer she hopes to teach a week-long workshop on the Western Carolina University campus with Cullowhee Mountain Arts workshops called Considering Abstraction with the Camera.
Learn more at her website: barbaratyroler.com
Artist Ora Sorensen (orasorensenart.com) was born in New York but grew up overseas. She has owned a gallery in Delray Beach, Florida, for 20 years, and has also been represented by other galleries across the country. Sorensen now lives and paints in North Carolina, and her paintings are collected worldwide and have been shown in numerous exhibitions.