Barber, best-known for his photographs of people, has found working with flowers far more relaxing. "It's a lot more therapeutic than dealing with people who don't do what they're told," he explains.
Once the seed had been sown, Barber's enthusiasm blossomed. "In the early 1990s, I became interested in taking portraits of flowers with the same care normally used for people," he says. "Sensitive lighting and vivid colour background help to bring out the delicate, complex structure of each `sitter'. Above all, I wanted to create a set of photographic images that owe nothing to digital manipulation."
What distinguishes Barber from other flower photographers is the fact that he regularly gets close enough to smell his subjects. "Most stylised pictures of flowers don't go in as close as I do," he says. "The clematis, for example [see cover], is the size of a thumb nail. Normally, you don't get to see what these
Barber also differs from many of his contemporaries in his desire to capture the natural beauty of the blooms, with the emphasis on natural. "I've taken one of some hollyhocks which have pollen all over them. I didn't clean them up, I just went with it."
Barber's back-to-basics approach allows him greater access to his subject matter. "Some people go with elaborate lighting rigs, but I keep it very simple, using one light and reflectors, which means I can transport my system to wherever the flowers are."
Looks like it's bouquets all round.
Barber's Flower Portraits is the first exhibition mounted by PAX, a new group promoting photography. Concord Sylvania, 174 High Holborn, London WC1, 1-19 SeptReuse content