In 2003, I pitched my tent next to an ancient circle of tall standing stones in the Orkney Islands, the farthest point north in Scotland, and photographed from evening through the night until dawn. That was the beginning of my project--to search for this type of standing stone throughout Scandinavia, Europe and Africa, and to photograph them by the light of the Moon. Also called menhirs, these standing, megalithic stones were erected by early humans around 3,000 to 1,500 BC. Scientists have shown that some of the stones point to certain stars or planets, but otherwise little is known about who constructed the stones or why, because Neolithic people left no written language. The mystery surrounding them is what draws me to them. Photographing at night emphasizes the role of these stones as connectors between earth and sky. And the quality of moonlight emphasizes the mysterious resonance that they continue to impart to this day. There is a timeless quality about these stones. They were here long before us and they will be here long after we are gone. Being in their presence is a humbling experience. I have stood alone at night by an ancient stone circle, with a brilliant, starry sky overhead and the moon reflecting on a Scottish loch below, the silence broken only by the sound of a cricket, and felt the wonder of humanity's connection with the cosmos and with whatever force it is that holds everything together.
Women Artists' Portraits
When I began photographing women artists in October of 1990, my purpose was to depict a community of women artists, and in the process, to help create that community. To date, I have photographed over ninety women. In each portrait I allow the artist to reveal a key aspect of her identity. There continue to be many misconceptions about women as subjects, stemming from their having been traditionally depicted as models or muses. These photographs portray the deeper sensibilities inherent in women's self-representation. It is also uncommon to see women artists in a group that does not "tokenize" them.
These portraits represent a large and diverse group. The artists span several generations and work in a variety of styles. They come from various countries, including Czechoslovakia, Lebanon, the Philippines, Poland, China, Haiti, Kenya, Ireland, the United States, Japan, Germany, Canada, France, The Gambia, Brazil, Hungary, Italy, the Ukraine, and Nigeria. In this project, there are no distinctions between "high" and "low" art, fine art and craft. For example, Shona-Hah was a Native American artist who worked in the same way her ancestors did, excelling at beadwork, skin sewing, carving, painting, and doll making. Renowned at one time as the only female graffiti artist, Sandra Fabara's "tag" was Lady Pink. The Gambian women make exquisite batik and tie-dyed fabrics in the tradition of their ancestors. Included here are both famous women and those not well known. My intention is to show that this community of women artists is not a geographic or elitist one, but has something more universal to do with being a woman making art.
To the general public, artists are often seen as outsiders. Women artists are particularly unfamiliar, since they are relatively unseen, compared to male artists. So I think some people still have a distorted idea of what women artists look like. I want a formal photograph to say, "Take these women seriously because they are intelligent, talented, strong and professional." I feel compelled to depict this community in an honest, straightforward way and from an "insider" point of view--because I'm also an artist, I think they are more inclined to relax and be themselves. And of course I know that it makes a difference if a woman is photographing a woman or if a man is photographing a woman.
The Moon has always fascinated me. The quality and character of moonlight is different than daylight--intriguing, mysterious, and loaded with historical and artistic significance. From our earliest beginnings, the Moon has exemplified the feminine, particularly female intuition and emotions. Traditionally, the phases of the Moon are associated with the cycles of birth, fullness, aging, and death. The Moon is also a symbol of regeneration and transformation, and the full moon is a symbol of wholeness. My main concern has been to use the light from the Moon to record my subjective perceptions and to capture some of the mystery that appears under the night sky. For that reason, I work far away from artificial light sources.
My working methods resemble those of explorers from a bygone era. I use a large format camera--a Wista 4 x 5 field camera with a Nikkor 150 mm lens. I use the swings and tilts of this camera to achieve "selective focus"--not everything at the same distance is equally in focus. The combination of moonlight and selective focus draws the viewer in to look more closely and to spend more time with the images. The exposures are long--anything can happen while the lens is open, especially when it's open for such a long time. And because I use film and not a digital camera, I don't see what I've got until later. I really like that element of chance, that lack of complete control over the product. The images are a result of the particular atmospheric conditions and the experience of being there at that specific time, under the night sky, exposed to the elements.
Barbara Yoshida is an American visual artist. She was born in Portland, Oregon, and now lives and works in New York City. She studied painting (M.A. at Hunter College, City University of New York, studying with Robert Morris, Tony Smith, Ray Parker and Vincent Longo; and B.A. at University of Washington, Seattle) and Japanese language at Columbia University, New York. She has had numerous exhibitions in countries around the world, including Poland, The Netherlands, Japan, Germany, Finland, Turkey, Egypt, Ukraine, Korea, India, England, France, Austria, China, Switzerland, Canada and Italy. Most recently she had a one-person exhibition of 80 prints in 2010 at Muzeum Narodowe w Gdansku (National Museum) in Gdansk, Poland, and during that same year she had solo shows at The University of the Arts in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania and Erlin Galéria in Budapest, Hungary, as well as being selected by Joyce Tenneson for "The View Project" at Naples Museum of Art in Florida. During 2012 Yoshida had her second one-person show in Tokyo, Japan. In 2007 Yoshida had two solo exhibitions in Budapest, Hungary, resulting in reviews in the Budapest Sun and Élet És Irodalom, two interviews for Duna TV, an interview for fotovilag Hungarian website for photography, and an article in Fotómuvészet magazine with nine full-page reproductions of her moonlight photographs.
Yoshida was invited to exhibit as part of Kaunas Photo Days 2006 in Kaunas, Lithuania and had three other solo shows that year: one in New York City and two in Scotland. Also in 2006, after participating as an exhibiting artist at FotoFest in Houston, Texas, she was chosen from nearly 1,300 photographers for "Photography Now: one hundred portfolios," a DVD-ROM created and distributed by Wright State University in Dayton, Ohio, and was invited to jury the Minnesota Print Biennial. Other solo exhibitions have been at George B. Dorr Museum in Bar Harbor, Maine; Hampshire College in Amherst, Massachusetts; North Idaho College in Coeur d'Alene, Idaho; and Johnson County College in Overland Park, Kansas. Her photogravures were shown at Atelier Lacourière Frélaut in Paris, as part of Le Mois de l'Estampe 2005, and seven prints were featured at Southeast Museum of Photography in Daytona Beach, Florida. She was honored to be included in Luna Córnea in 2004; Double Exposure online magazine in 2006; and Night and Low-Light Photography: Professional Techniques from Experts for Artistic and Commercial Success, published by Watson-Guptill in 2008.
In addition to photographing the US through a half-dozen artist's residencies for the National Park Service, Yoshida is also a former Light Work, Ucross, Blacklock Nature Sanctuary, Atlantic Center for the Arts (selected by Graciela Iturbide), and two-time MacDowell Colony fellow. Her work is in various public and private collections, including Museet for Fotokunst Brandts Klaedefabrik in Denmark; Southeast Museum of Photography; Frederick R. Weisman Art Museum; The Huntington Gardens Art Collection; Polaroid Corporation; Light Work; New York Public Library; The Demarco Skateraw Project in Scotland; Newark Public Library; Free Library of Philadelphia; The University of Dallas; and Arkansas State University.
In the past, Yoshida made a series of color landscape prints, worked in both photogravure and Van Dyke Brown, and made several series concerning the naked body, including self-portraits with masks, some of which were shot by moonlight. During the past twenty years, she has been working on two major projects: nocturnal landscapes featuring Neolithic standing stones in moonlight, begun in 2003, and a portrait series of women artists, begun in 1990 and now approaching 100 in number. She uses only analog photography.
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