PRO-PORTRAIT: Performance Photographer Bob Barry--photography is about getting to know people.

Bob Barry is in his third major career, but they’ve all been in the arts. He’s been an actor, a nightclub entertainer and photographer. They’re separate careers all built on a foundation of a love and admiration for the talents—and fearlessness, of the performer. 

Bob started out of college as a young musical comedy actor in New York, and as part of touring companies around the country. He did all the things that young actors do: summer stock, and many television commercials. Then he became a nightclub entertainer in hotel lounges; in mafia nightclubs—usually performing with a duo or group. It was during this time he picked up a camera, and started photographing performers.

But this wasn’t the first time photography had been part of his life. While living in New York during the late 1960’s, Bob met the iconic photographer Diana Arbus. “What I learned from looking at her work and getting to know her was that photography was about people—it’s about feelings. It’s about getting to know people. She tweaked the door open for me, to go into the direction that I eventually became a profession.” 

Bob’s current incarnation of his creative life became well defined in the 1980’s and 1990’s in Los Angeles. He became very close friends with a large enclave of Jazz musicians, singers, and performers. “I have a strong feeling for Jazz, and I’ve always had that as a young man.” The performers could see his passion come out in his work, and invited him into their world to archive, and bring their music, and their performances to still images. 

Bob would bring his camera to the club engagements, and started photographing—archiving live performances using the medium of a still camera. A photograph designed to capture the feelings of the performers, and to capture the magic of a live performance.

He was really getting into chronicling the events that these people were participating in, and ended up chronicling one of them for 15 years—John Pisano’s guitar night. For photographers like Bob, it’s about the ability to get access the subject matter. Bob got to know people, and they began to open doors—deeper and deeper into the inner sanctum of the performance world. 

John Pisano 2002

Bob has a rule—“if I keep enjoying it I keep doing it.” He’s been photographing artists for well over 15 years. And he says he enjoys it more and more every day.

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