Photographer Alan Craig Barnard roams the suburban streets and housing developments around his Roseville home looking for magic.
He finds it in the rippling clouds reflected on the perfect surface of a stream beside Interstate 80, or in the long shadows cast by oak trees at dawn in a patch of open space.
Staying local is a matter of principle, Barnard writes in the program for his exhibit of ephemeral black-and-white prints, “New Traditions in Landscape,” at the Viewpoint Photographic Art Center in Sacramento.
With carbon-fueled climate change threatening the world, it’s time to stop flying to far-flung continents – and polluting the atmosphere – to photograph pristine landscapes that need saving, he says. “Among environmentally conscious landscape photographers, a new mantra of ‘shoot locally, share globally’ is beginning to emerge,” his show’s program reads.
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The 53-year-old father of three children, and graphic designer by day, is bringing to fine art the same local focus that has spawned the farm-to-fork and locally sourced movements – adjustments to a world where lifestyles sprout from the environment itself. In his daily life, that’s meant driving an electric car, cutting back on flying and forgoing eating meat, among other shifts in the routine.
“If all of us took responsibility, then maybe things would change,” Barnard said during an interview this week. “But it’s going to take that kind of individual effort.”
Staying local also encourages photographers to highlight the special places and people they’ve come to know near where they live, instead of traveling across the world to photograph the obvious, he said.
“It’s really trusting there are people out there who can do what you can do, and they can do it better because they know their own backyard,” Barnard said.
As inspiration, he cited the work of Welsh photographer Chris Tancock, who walked the boundaries of the same local meadow twice a day for years to capture every subtle change in light and season.
Barnard’s own photos reflect a suburban Sacramento emptied of people and buildings, like scenes from some pre- or post-human world. A field of tall grass stretches back to a stand of oaks, just a few hundred yards from an unseen housing development. A pond crisply mirrors full-bodied clouds, with the roofline of several houses obscured by trees.
“I think that you would be surprised to see where they were taken because oftentimes there would be homes just outside the frame, or a business,” Barnard said. “So the idea for me is that even those little slices of life, those local spaces, are really important.”
Jack Chang: 916-321-1034, @JackChangJourno