Keziban Barry Leaps Into Motion

By David Schonauer   Friday March 8, 2019

Stopping time with photography is magic, says Keziban Barry.

But working in motion has, she adds, opened new creative doors and business opportunities.

“It’s so funny to think back how video has become such an integrated part of our lives, and it will continue to do so,” she says. “Just a few years ago, when I first started in video, it was wasn’t what it is now. I spent a lot of time learning it by trial and error — making a lot of mistakes and getting egg on my face. But now I’m getting hired for video projects, and I think I’m only now understanding how it works.”

Barry specializes in fashion editorial and architectural work. She also creates short video pieces, sometimes in tandem with commercial photography shoots and sometimes as personal projects. All her work is distinguished by its sensitivity to mood and expression.

An example is Barry’s still series “Eye Travels” (below), which, noted Creative Boom in 2016, features images that are based around the theme of a woman wrapped in nostalgia and solitude, trying to pry open a new life for herself. The series was also included in the American Photography 32 annual.

“Keziban's artwork captures the light of an individual, the essence of a moment and the narrative of a life,” noted the website. “Being self-taught, she developed her style by taking inspiration from her academic and global upbringing. She infuses her work with fashion, literary, cinematic, musical and historical references to help capture the 'just before' and 'just after' mise-en-scène of a momentous action.”

Photography came to Barry early in life. Her family traveled extensively and cameras became a tool for her to document places she’d been and experiences she’d had. In high school and college at Georgetown University she continued her travels though study-abroad programs. “That sort of morphed into taking workshops and classes in photography,” she says.

One of her study programs took Barry to Seville, Spain, where, as it happened, Magnum photographer Alex Majoli was leading a workshop. “His ability to work as both a photojournalist and to shoot fashion and commercial work was a big influence on me,” says Barry.

Following that experience, Barry interned at National Geographic Traveler magazine. She also interned for a filmmaker who was working on a documentary about the 1979 Iranian hostage crisis. After college she moved to New York, where she worked for two years as an assistant photo editor at National Geographic Adventure magazine, followed by a stint as photo editor and in-house photographer at Art & Auction magazine.

By 2011 she was ready to start the life of a freelancer. “I said, ‘Okay, I’m doing this, I’m going off on my own,’” she recalls. “It was a learning experience. I took some classes, including a course at the International Center of Photography with Amy Arbus, which was awesome, and started to learn what my aesthetic is.” Below are some samples of her commercial photography work.

About five years ago, a former colleague at National Geographic Adventure gave Barry some advice that would shape her career. “She was the one who said you really need to start shooting video," says Barry. "She said, 'It’s going to change the industry.'”

Today, after a few years of coming to grips with ever-changing digital technology and the expanding array of video gear available to photographers, Barry has settled into a new creative identity. “I think I’m part of this new generation or group of hybrid photographer-directors,” she says.

The hybrid nature of her work cuts both ways — Barry’s photography has a cinematic feel, while her motion work is suffused with a photographer’s eye for light. “Depending on the client, I may be shooting both stills and motion, so I try to light my sets with continuous light,” she says. “But I also get hired for just my video.”

Perfect Man magazine hired Barry to create a series of fashion images and the video below:

“That was a fun project where I worked with the creative director of Perfect Man, and he gave me full creative rein. Usually with a client you have to approach a project with a storyboard and everything planned out, but this came together differently,” says Barry. “I’m pretty driven by music — I have an easier time understanding a story when I have a musical reference. I grew up playing violin at a young age, and I learned by the Suzuki method, by listening. It was interesting to me when I started editing videos that this musical language was so deeply part of me. I think the more I do video, the more I love it because it feels like a more holistic story, emotionally.”

Another of her videos is called “Paris Coquette.”

“One of my best friends is a kind of influencer, and we have been shooting together for a while. So for this we were in Paris, and she had this beautiful apartment and made this piece. I think it speaks to a base of creativity and allowing yourself to have a fun time and play. And in the edit we brought in elements of voices and used the audio as part of the story. It looks like it was more expensive to make than it was.” This video, like most of Barry’s, was shot with a Sony a7R III and a DJI Ronin S stabilizer. (The Perfect Man video, however, was shot with a RED cinema camera.

Another of her videos, titled “Telephone,” was done as a personal project inspired by the master of suspense, director Alfred Hitchcock.

“I wanted to explore working more with actors, and this was done with an actress friend of my, Jacqueline Byers,” says Barry. “Left to my own devices, I can go dark and weird. I came up with a script in which she was a paranoid-schizophrenic sex worker. Jackie was up for anything. It was actually a lot of fun.”

This video, which was shot with the RED camera, also makes effective use of audio. “I think with scary movies, it’s often the sound that is scary,” Barry says, “so this also is about the idea of audio as an underlying current of video that I really love exploring”