Exploring the Imaginary World of Thomas Barbèy's Photomontages
Thomas Barbèy is a Swiss photographer, now retired, who has made a name for himself with his unique and captivating black and white photomontages. Growing up in Geneva, Switzerland, Barbèy was surrounded by art from a young age, with the famous "Caran D'ache" factory located just across the street from his childhood home. It was here that he first discovered his passion for drawing and art, and at the age of 13, he began to take his art seriously, using black "encre de Chine" and gouaches for color.
His process is both intentional and accidental. At times he comes up with ideas beforehand, try to materialize them and it works. At other times, it comes as an accident, where the ideas come afterwards, when the image is already finished and the concept has yet to be understood. Barbèy claims he is learning constantly through the process of creation. His influences were diverse, ranging from Philippe Druillet, Roger Dean and H.R. Giger, and it was these influences that helped shape his style and vision. After living in Geneva for 17 years and designing posters for musical bands, he decided to move to Italy, where he lived in Milan for 15 years making a living as a successful recording artist, lyricist and fashion photographer.
Barbèy's photomontages are truly unique and captivating. He combines several images taken over a period of twenty years to create surreal situations with the help of the enlarger in a dark room. His work has a specific style and is very characteristic. He only works with Black and White, including Sepia toning at times.
Every single one of his images has to pass what he likes to call the "So what?" test. If a combination of two or more negatives put together doesn't touch him or have any particular meaning, he starts over. At times, he tries to combine images and sometimes the results can be disappointing. A giant clock in the middle of the ocean can be an unusual image, but if he looks at it and says to himself, "So what?", this means it isn't good enough." If, instead, an ocean liner is going down a "funnel-type" hole and he titles it "Shortcut to China", it takes on a whole new meaning. The picture takes you into an imaginary world where you can see the captain telling the passengers to fasten their safety belts and get prepared for the descent, and so on.
His work has been exhibited in galleries throughout the world and is included in many private collections. Barbèy's photomontages are truly a feast for the eyes, and they take the viewer on a journey through an imaginary world, where the boundaries between reality and fantasy are blurred. If you ever have a chance to see his work, don't miss it, you won't be disappointed.