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An Interview with Photographer & Artist Barnaby Jaco Skinner



Telling Stories through Photographs: An Interview with Photographer & Artist Barnaby Jaco Skinner


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When Barnaby Jaco Skinner was 12 years old, he wanted to change the way things looked. “I wanted to rearrange the world around me so that it would fit perfectly together”, shares the 34 year old photographer, artist, and marketing and publication supervisor of International School of Tianjin.“I’m not sure if ‘fondness’ would be the right word to describe my passion for photography. It’s more of an obsession, an irritation, an itch that I can’t quite scratch. Every day I see an infinite combination of shapes, colours, compositions and meanings that I want to capture and rework, the key is filtering the wheat from the chaff and setting yourself obtainable goals that deliver meaningful content”.

Here’s more of Barnaby Jaco Skinner’s talk with Tianjin Plus...


Firstly, please tell us about yourself.

Well my name is Barnaby Jaco Skinner, the middle name being borrowed by my parents from the legendary bass guitar player Jaco Pastorius, of whom they were rather large fans. I’m 34 years old and have lived in Tianjin for almost 3 years now. I’ve been with my wife Catherine for 13 years and we happily share our lives with our beautiful Chinese teddy poodle, Indie.  


What do you think is your greatest achievement as a photographer and artist?

Photographically my highest achievement to date is being awarded a Licentiate of the Royal Photographic Society in the UK, closely followed by winning first place in a national photo competition right here in China earlier this year. Without trying to sound cheesy, I’d also like to say that it’s been a privilege for me to be welcomed here in China as both a photographer and an artist. I hope to continue making photos for others to enjoy.

Artistically it would have to be successfully holding my very first official Chinese exhibition. Fifteen pieces from my latest collection ‘Blu & Red’ were setup at a fantastic space in Meijiang called Cercle Restraint. We borrowed the main space for one evening and completed the exhibition with no issues at all.


Now you have the Blu & Red Exhibition, do tell us about this and the concept behind this event.

It was kind of simple, really. I was browsing Wikipedia one day and fell-over an article about Technicolour. It was the first process used to make colour film reels in the 1900s. This fundamentally changed the way we saw moving images. For the first time commercially we could watch pseudo-realistic colour films at the cinema. Blu & Red took its foundations from the early Technicolour process known as Two-Tone where black and white films were dyed with 2 colours after filming to create a saturated colour effect. I guess it’s similar to cell shading in modern day film post production or colour replacement in still image manipulation, but a lot more expensive.


Out of the thousands and thousands of photos you took, you selected 15 of them to display for Blu & Red. How difficult was the process of choosing which photos to display?

Because the collection was initially more about selective colours than any other subject matter, it wasn’t too hard to get a set together. I was looking for images that naturally exhibited reds and blues that I could subtlety isolate. The main issue that arose was working the exhibition into a mixed Western and Eastern market, both of which require very different approaches. The imagery selected had to appeal to both audiences, and whilst it was my first exhibition out here I’d say we got a pretty good balance.


You’ve taken quite a lot of photos here in Tianjin. How do they reflect Tianjin’s culture?

For me I love the Tianjin Cultural Centre off You Yi Nan Lu towards Meijiang, it’s a fantastic example of how modern China exists hand-in-hand with the traditional way of life Photography in Tianjin is very different to that of the 3 other main cities in China. Tianjin offers the world a glimpse of a real Chinese city in the modern era coming to terms with its place in the world. We see old and new co-existing, older generations living with their great  grand children, each teaching one-another about their unique and story-laden lives. My aim is to capture that existence before time pushes onwards and we lose the stories forever.


Lastly, Blu & Red exhibition was successful. Do you have any future exhibitions lined up that you would like our readers to know about?

Thanks! Its people like you coming along, having a browse and buying a print that keeps me going, so long as people keep enjoying my work I’ll keep producing it. As for what’s next, the team and I will be having a little rest until January when we’re hoping to start planning something for April, maybe another exhibition in Tianjin town centre or possibly Beijing, but I’m mindful that Beijing is a different kettle of fish, as us Brits say, so one step at a time is probably best. I’m also working on 3 large format photo books showcasing my work from the UK, China, Africa and Malaysia. 

I am hoping to work with Chinese and European publishers on this project later in 2014. My fourth book will be concentrating on the people of Tianjin. I’ve already started shooting for it and am really excited about all the different people I’m going to meet along the way!


(You may check out Barnaby Jaco Skinner’s website – or for queries, email him at This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it )


By Cathy Perez

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