McGaw Graphics is excited to introduce new photographer Barbara Northrup, the cover artist of the just-launched Photography 2017 Collection. Originally from the Vancouver B.C., Barbara Northrup studied textile and interior design in San Francisco before moving to Coastal Georgia in the mid-90’s. Her love of the photographic medium started when she was a teenager and has been a constant companion through the years. An outdoor adventurer and nature enthusiast, Northrup spends much of her time exploring and photographing nature. Her travels have taken her from the mountains and glacial bays of Alaska to the beaches, salt marshes and river estuaries of Coastal Georgia. In the world of fine art photography she is best known for her black and white images of the ancient and gnarled oak trees of the Southern Coastal region. We spoke with Barbara to find out more about her inspiration and process (interview below). See the Barbara Northrup Print Collection:
MG: How did you develop and interest in photography?
BN: I don’t remember any defining moment that got me hooked on photography but my dad had a Konica SLR when I was growing up and I was intrigued by how it worked. I would borrow it whenever I could and finally, eager to regain the use of his camera, he bought me a Canon A1 for my 16th birthday. Since photo finishing was expensive, I set up a black and white darkroom in a bathroom at home and processed and printed my own film. I think that learning photography in the age of film was a great benefit since it made me learn how to use my equipment properly. Mistakes were costly and I really thought about what I wanted my image to look like before I pressed the shutter button. When digital photography emerged it was great because it allowed me the freedom to take risks and be more creative than I ever had been before.
MG: What equipment do you use?
BN: I still have my Canon A1 but I currently use a Canon 5D Mkii camera along with a collection of professional lenses. My camera is 15 years old and pretty dented and scratched but we’ve been through many adventures together. Its full frame format allows me to produce nice large prints. I’m not a techno-geek so I don’t see any need to upgrade every time a new model comes out. I also have an iPhone 7+ which produces great images and is perfect for my pattern work.
MG: What inspires you? What artists/photographers inspire you?
BN: Growing up we always had a subscription to National Geographic and I would spend hours studying the photos. Those fabulous images from around the world inspired me more than any particular photographer when I was a kid. Over the years I have appreciated the work of a great variety of artists – not just photographers. I have always been fascinated by the art of Asia and this has had a definite influence on my pattern work. But, the most inspirational factor of all has been nature. There is nothing like walking and sleeping in a primeval forest to make you feel rejuvenated, full of life and bursting with ideas.
MG: What are your hobbies (besides art)?
BN: My husband and I love to hike, kayak and wilderness camp, and the wilder and farther from populated areas, the better. We did a two week backpacking trip in Alaska and a weeklong kayaking trip in the Discovery Islands of British Columbia for our honeymoon a few years back. We are headed for Gabon, Africa next month where they have the largest population of Silver Back Gorillas in the world. Of course, my art is always a part of everything I do.
MG: What jobs have you done besides being a photographer?
BN: I have worked as an interior designer and I owned and a home linens store in the 1990’s. I managed an art gallery for many years, worked as a professional photographer and taught photography. Currently, in addition to my fine art photography business, I have an active wear company called Inspire Active Wear. I use my photographs to create patterns which I have custom printed on fabric made from recycled plastic water bottles. The company produces all its yoga and exercise clothing domestically and sells to stores around the USA and Canada.
MG: What is your favorite subject or location to photograph?
BN: Trees are one of my favorite subjects. They have such personality. Some are straight and tall. Some are twisted and gnarled. Their life experiences define and mold them, just like people.
In addition to my passion for photographing nature, I love doing street photography. The term urban jungle is very appropriate for most of the cities of the world. For me, discovering the streets and people of a new city is just as interesting as exploring a forest or landscape.
MG: Is there a particular shot that you are especially proud of?
BN: I took a photo of my husband while we were hiking up Mount Adams in Washington State. We were at about 7000 feet and he had laid a map out on a flat rock and was looking down at it trying to determine the best route to the summit. Mount Hood was behind him in the distance. It really was the most incredible staging and it was all natural and impromptu. It has turned out to be one of my best selling stock photos.
MG: What is your dream project?
BN: Wow, that’s a great question! I have always been fascinated by the work of Frank Lloyd Wright and how he not only designed the architecture but, the furniture and textiles for his buildings too. So, if I had to choose one dream project, it would be to design a complete interior space that features my work. My interest in interior design is still strong and I often dream of creating a collection of home textiles, wall coverings and objects that feature my photographic pattern work. Of course, my fine art images would provide the artwork!