Photographic Artwork

2012 - 2017

All images copyright Barnaby Jaco Skinner

The foundations of my photographic art are firmly embedded in a world of colour, line and shape. I take inspiration artistically from the vivid graphic novels of 1980s Japan, abstract world film, off-beat scores, historical references, streams of consciousness, empathy, sexuality, humanity and solitude. Shooting a commercial image for a client is something that takes planning, years of experience and a whole lot of gear, but shooting an artistic piece from the heart is a totally different ball-game. It has to mean something more than the sum of it's parts, it has to have a deeper purpose. Associated texts have always helped to place my images mentally, with texts taken from my travel journal entries, personal observations, historical references, personal artistic interpretations and even the occasional quotation from some of my favorite authors. Each image has a logical purpose within their own relative image collections, however on this page they may seem a little diverse.
Red Wall

Rising high above Tiananmen the dominant Red Walls of Beijing’s most revered Hutong keep out the prying eyes of passers-by. The once bustling inner courtyards link one another through ancient stone arches, each emerging to wide open spaces filled with an emptiness of biblical proportions.

/ Journal entry - The Forbidden City

Nikon D700 / Nikkor 50mm f1.4
Shaxi (Left)

Nikon D4 / Nikkor 70-200 f2.8

The Mid Levels (Right)

Nikon D4 / Nikkor 70-200 f2.8
The Temple of a Million Years

Traveling the world, It's hard not to reflect on your own life as you pass through others'. As a young archaeologist in the nineties I once sat studying Ancient Egyptian hieroglyphs in the dusty basement of the British Institute for Archaeology in Amman, Jordan. Surrounded by newly unearthed pottery sherds, stone tools, bronze and flint from Jordan's ancient history, it was hard to fit in my passion of Egypt before one of the directors shooed me off to catalog medieval pottery instead. Eighteen years old and I could already decipher a fair number of glyphs using eighteenth century text books from a small library time seemed to have forgotten. One evening I found myself gazing at the inscription of a stele dedicated to Ramses the Second, a decree regarding the state of his memorial temple, his 'House of millions of years'. As fate would have it, Christian Jacq, French author and Egyptologist, had just that year stoked my imagination with his latest novel Ramses and the Temple of Eternity, a gloriously descriptive account of this exact temple, built for Ramses during the New Kingdom era. The novel and stele would stay with me until one afternoon in Asia, some fifteen years later.

Deep in southern China, standing somewhere off the tourist route just outside Dali, I think of Ramses and his magnificent memorial temple as I point a lens at southern China's dynastic architecture. The grandeur of these buildings alone is breathtaking in itself, but it's the concept of constructing a temple to last for eternity that rings in my ears, and southern China does not disappoint. A momentary memory unearths from a university seminar, that the world is full of similarities, from Egypt to Mexico to China to India to Easter Island, our ancestors strove to be remembered until the end of time, it was their purpose in life, their gateway to the heavens. Fifteen years of thought, a university degree, field work and friendships came together to form this image, and that's the first thing I teach my students, that art can happen when you least expect it.

This particular temple sits towards the back of the Three Pillars complex just outside Dali in China's Yunnan province. One would be forgiven if they missed it whilst visiting, the main thoroughfare takes you past the core attraction, three large pillars, and then on to a larger temple to light some incense and buy the obligatory wrist bangle. Venture off the beaten track however, and you're rewarded with this majestic scene, and not a soul in sight. Okay, maybe one.

/ Journal entry - Dali

Nikon D4 / Nikkor 14-24 f2.8
Four Elements - Fire

A stark metallic bulge emanating from behind Tienanmen, the National Center for Performing Arts could very well be an escape platform for times of alien invasions, zombie infestations or an all-out meltdown. Skirting it's circumference runs a medieval moat that stops all but the brave, or stupid, from approaching the blemish-free paneled hull. Orbiting like satellites, small electric police cars wizz by, chasing would be intruders who step too close to the water's edge.

/ Journal entry - Beijing

Nikon D4 / Nikkor 70-200 f2.8
Down The Rabbit Hole

Down, down, down. Would the fall never come to an end! `I wonder how many miles I've fallen by this time?

Extract from 'Alice's Adventures in Wonderland' (1865) - Lewis Carroll

Nikon D4 / Nikkor 70-200 f2.8
A Hidden Place (Left)

Nikon D700 / Nikkor 14-24 f2.8

Green on Purple (Right)

Nikon D700 / Nikkor 70-200 f2.8
A Tolkien Landscape

Traveling the Karakorum Highway from Kashgar up to the snowy peaks of the Pamir mountains, our clapped-out thirty year-old car sets a speedy pace through the windy lowlands, the peaks in the distance promising stories and adventures in equal measure. The gateway to Pakistan resembles a landscape from Tolkien's middle earth. A handful of bored Chinese guards keep a careful eye on us as we pick our way around the farthest outpost on china’s western frontier, nothing exists here except for the occasional rhythmic chugging of an over-laden mini-bus heading for the border.

/ Journal entry - China/Pakistan border

Nikon D700 / Nikkor 14-24 f2.8
The Witches Hut

They walked through the entire night and the next day from morning until evening, but they did not find their way out of the woods. They were terribly hungry, for they had eaten only a few small berries that were growing on the ground. And because they were so tired that their legs would no longer carry them, they lay down under a tree and fell asleep. It was already the third morning since they had left the father's house. They started walking again, but managed only to go deeper and deeper into the woods. If help did not come soon, they would perish. At midday they saw a little snow-white bird sitting on a branch. It sang so beautifully that they stopped to listen. When it was finished it stretched its wings and flew in front of them. They followed it until they came to a little house.

Extract from 'Hansel and Gretel' - Jacob and Wilhelm Grimm

Nikon D4 / Nikkor 14-24 f2.8
The Silver Pagoda

Nikon D4 / Nikkor 14-24 f2.8
The North Gate

A heavy summers rain sets in, all too soon filling the sunken stone passages to bursting. Water spills from the foreboding entrance of this stone-hewn labyrinth, oppressive dark clouds dissuading the dying light from illuminating what lurks within. Dancing shadows draw a maze of black twisting tunnels blocked and barricaded by cave-ins and mutant trees. At the centre of this Tomb Raider puzzle stands a small stone alter surrounded by four passageways leading off every ninety degrees. None has a visible ending, each twisting off to oblivion. Light rains down from a crack in the stone ceiling, a single beam illuminating the stone alter, and just like that I forget which tunnel I arrived in.

A child’s laugh echos momentarily somewhere with the underground maze, sound waves bouncing off cold stone walls, it's origin masked by shadows and dust. Turning, I pick a tunnel and venture down the causeway, knee deep in water, following the eerie echos from behind the gloom. I trip hard on an uneven stone unseen through the depths and stumble hard through dense wet vines. Falling through a small opening in the thick stone wall, out to another world I emerge, the light of a mid-afternoon monsoon flooding my senses. The jungle here lays heavily over the hidden red and green stone temple, a place of worship once devoted to monks and their daily routine, the entire area now lays derelict and eroded by zealous Fords and would-be Angelinas. Climbing large sodden stone steps, I make my way up to the tree line in an attempt to get a feel for the direction back out to civilization. I’m mildly lost, and it’s started to rain again.

/ Journal entry - Cambodia Siem Reap

Nikon D4 / Nikkor 70-200 f2.8
An end to a beginning

Pounding. Throbbing. Pulsating. Ragged breathing but no air to douse the clawing fire in your lungs, a fire whose flames consume pride and love and faith. Tunnel vision obscures uncontrollable thoughts of fear and hate, a chaotic orchestration of white noise disrupting reality. Existence should be nearing an end, but it never arrives.

Skinner / The Descent / 2014

Nikon D700 / Nikkor 500 f4
A Heavenly Lake (Left)

Circumnavigating Tian Shi, a well trodden yellow brick pathway directs tourists around the idyllic Heavenly Lake in northern Xinjiang. The lush blue and green blanketing this stunning landscape contrasts wildly with the harsh yellows and browns of the deserts to the south. Peering out on a distant horizon, a snow-covered Tian Shan fades through the milky-white cloud line, vigilantly guarding it’s shimmering sibling.

/ Journal entry - Xinjiang

Nikon D700 / Nikkor 14-24 f2.8

No Man's Land (Right)

Nikon D700 / Nikkor 28-70 f2.8
The Long Walk

Dark matter sits in the depths of your soul. Weighing you down, it drags its feet with every punch to the face. Imploding under its own mass, a moment of isolation erupts in a supernova, consuming all that you hold dear. Disrupted and warped and bent and broken, life becomes meaningless. To live pointless. To exist, a statistical improbability.

Time heals wounds, we are told. So we heal. Our dark clouds dissipate, tumultuous mountains crack at shadowed seams. White cuts black. Retreat. Cracks to chimneys, rifts to valleys, darkness recedes, afraid of this new world. The Nothing has become nothing, and with it, I something.

Skinner / Alone Amoungst The Saints / 2014

Nikon D4 / Nikkor 70-200 f2.8
To Infinity

A swell stirs from untold depths.
Enveloped in an ocean of order we hunger for a chance at chaos, arms nailed to a frenzied wind our blood drips in binary.
Relentless, focused Pounding. Answer the call.
Reality shifts.
Vicious tidal-forces radiate from within, an energy that threatens to tear down systematic consciousness, detonate ordered demise.
Time pulsates to this arcane thump, chaos seizing an unfolding horizon.
Loss is inevitable.
Crescendos peak high above the heavens, sonic soul-fire pouring down over our pinned and beaten bodies. Enveloped and torn, we awake.
For that single moment, from the very essence of our infinite universe, you taste life.
And you dance.

Skinner / A Blinding Ascent / 2014

Nikon D90 / Nikkor AF-D 30-700 f5.6
Yellow on Purple

Nikon D4 / Nikkor 28-70 f2.8
The Lookout (Left)

A view of Kunming city...

Elderly women massage the weary legs of equally elderly men, entrepreneurs off-load the latest craze direct from Shenzhen and wannabe pop-stars wait patiently by the river-side to perform their favorite crooner through a 5-dollar portable mic to an idle audience of fan waving, chit-chatting voyeurs.

/ Journal entry - Kunming

Nikon D4 / Nikkor 14-24 f2.8

Shangri-La (Right)

Dukezong old town, shot in 2013, burned down in 2014.

A quick stop at Tiger Leaping Gorge and we're off, ascending the well-paved, slightly-too-narrow, national highway towards Dukezong, aptly nick-named Shangri-La. As our saloon ventures ever upwards, we make a game of overtaking coaches and lorries, awarding extra points for near misses. Scoring gets too high so we settle for looking out the window instead. Clouds come and go, we start to miss the plentiful air of the lower passes, up here oxygen is thin. As we reach the plateau, occasional blue and red roofing betrays a Chinese presence, but for all intents this is a Tibetan stronghold, complete with yaks, prayer flags and paddy fields. Altitude sickness seeps in, crippling our weak bodies. Arriving at Shangri-La we snooze at Kevin's Trekker Inn on the outskirts of the old town after a brief interlude at a typical Chinese hotel in the new town. We opt for Kevin's guest house after the toilet in our room tries to eat me. Kevin reassures me that not all Chinese are connected to the hive mind, some have broken free and are setting up quaint guest houses.

/ Journal entry - Shangri-La

Nikon D4 / Nikkor 14-24 f2.8
Above Kyoto (Left)

They stare as if they understand. They too once shared it, embraced it, devoured it. Abuse is evident here. Answering to the call of chaos, seeking the center, fueled by an addiction to push ever harder, ever further. We all succumbed, were beaten and we have failed. Here we now wait, on the outside looking in.

Skinner / Waiting At The Gates / 2014

Nikon D700 / Nikkor 28-70 f2.8

Kneeling (Right)

It was a calculated mistake, this failed attempt at humanity.
So fall we shall.
From heights beyond heavens, we shall fall.
From the peaks of narcissistic indulgence, we shall crash.
From the crest of conceited obsession, we shall recede.
From the pinnacle of our collective consumerism, we shall plunge.
And from the darkness we shall not return.

Skinner / The Fall / 2014

Nikon D700 / Nikkor 14-24 f2.8