Tracy Barbour is a New York City Street Photographer, Documentary Photojournalist, and Portrait Artist. Tracy's work explores the grief and grace found in everyday life, from the streets of the world around her to connecting one on one with those who have stories of hope and despair.
When I stopped trying to fit in and learned how to do what I love on my time and my way, I started learning what it was like to live and connect.
Does it sting when my male counterparts choose to bypass my work for group exhibition? Of course. Do I let it affect my goals and abilities as a street photographer? Never. If anything it makes me dig deeper, going below the surface and search for projects that carry weight and meaning.
No longer do I worry about being "liked." Instead I stay quiet and share my work at completion, thus resulting in a stronger body of work overall.
My mind is clear of the trappings often associated with being a part of the "in" crowd. A clear mind results in a clear heart and a greater understanding of my subject.
I am woman and an artist who now values my own work, sees my own worth, and has a clear understanding of what I must do in terms of my passion for my craft.
I took this while sitting on the tarmac at LaGuardia. Watching the sun rise over the right wing, I retraced my steps to the ride to the airport in the darkened hushed silence. 15 minutes earlier I was standing in the darkness on a curb in Astoria with a heaviness in my gut.
My last day here was spent mostly alone. I woke up late for a Monday, drank coffee, road the subway, walked the streets, and returned at dusk to wander through the neighborhood greeting strangers, looking for the east river, and gathering every last bit of memory to myself I could.
I found myself here, sighing into the condensation of a dirty jet window. Not ready to leave, not ready to stay, but with a calmer heart and mind determined to make the changes I was seeking.
There is something to be said for the journey. What does it take to get there? And once you are there, can you go further? Can you go faster? Some days are like a slow roll and others the faster the better. Whether the world is passing by in slow motion or whipping by at the speed of light, every mile ticks off important moments in the trip we make around the sun as humans.
I recently purchased a bike. It is nothing fancy. I hadn't ridden a bike in over 20 years and it was a huge leap for me to get back on. The last time I attempted to ride, I ran over the salesman as I veered in the wrong direction and promptly fell off after slamming into him.
Nope, not getting back on. Not ever. Or so I said.
I made excuse after excuse for not getting on a bike that ranged from "my balance is off" to "I'm too old to relearn" to "I simply have not time."
But I did have time and I definitely wasn't too old. And neither are you. Whether it's getting back on the road and two wheels after 20 years or trying something new at the age of 60 or 80 or more. You are never too old to understand every single moment of the journey is YOUR ticket to ride. It is YOUR ticket to get back on the journey.
Today I found out I made a list. I was featured alongside some incredibly talented street storytellers, all female, on Street Hunters. You can check out the entire list HERE.
I cried. Seriously. I lay in bed staring up at the ceiling with tears rolling down my cheeks. I didn't even know. A friend sent me the link. I didn't start street photography all that long ago. And being in this very male dominated genre takes grit, guts, and a shit ton of patience.
Those tears were tears of joy and tears of relief. Two weeks ago I felt like a fraud. Two weeks ago I was ready to hang it all up. I even threatened to leave my camera at a friend's house and never return to get it. I felt lost in an overwhelming sea of people, buildings, city noise, and feelings. I didn't know how to swim up and I was suffocating. I was not functioning comfortably as an artist, much less a whole human being. I had sunk absolutely everything I had into moving to NYC and I was failing miserably.
Or was I?
I don't know. I doubt I will ever know. I moved to NYC in October of 2016 on a whim, a very well-planned and calculated whim, to pursue my greatest passion in the greatest city (to me) in the world. I was going to conquer everything with my honest, my humbleness, and my determination.
That's when NYC decided to double-down on me. One misfortune and unfortunate event after another, my ship was sinking. Although my emotional honesty stayed intact, my determination and positive attitude was on the brink. I was distraught often, scaring a couple close friends and my family.
But then something happened. I don't know what it was. A switch was flipped an incredible things started pouring into my life. Don't get me wrong, my days are far from easy. I still struggle like any other artist in this city. I mean I struggle like anybody in this city. We come, we stay, and we struggle. Day in and day out I pour myself into physical labor, hundreds of steps and miles on the streets, and long subway rides to spend even 5% each day focused on my craft.
So now I sit here motivated again, determined again, and several projects in planning stages. I am no longer dreading a year from now when I stand on a stage in Jacksonville for my first major museum exhibit and presentation. I am working that 5% per day to the very best I can.
My hope is 5% will become 100%. Today is just a first baby step towards that. I am grateful Street Hunters included me. It was the revelation, the inspiration, the confirmation, and the swift kick in the butt I needed.
I met "J" through a chance encounter coming off a subway platform in Bushwick. He was struggling to get his walker down the stairs. A man in front of me helped him down and as soon as they reached the bottom I approached him. J was wearing a Navy Veteran t-shirt and I could see he traditional Navy Veteran cap similar to the one my grandfather wore
J's story is long and full of heartbreak, yet he remains vigilant in his determination to get out of his current situation. He has been through 2 tours, an IED attack, numerous surgeries, a death of a sibling, and separation from his only son.
J is homeless. He is one of approximately 990 homeless veterans in New York City. In 2015, The Huffington Post, published an article that there had been a 40% drop in homelessness amongst veterans reducing the rates from 3800 to 990.
That is still 990 homeless veterans. There shouldn't be any, period. There should be nothing that stands in the way of our country providing for those who gave their lives, their health, and their families to protect and serve.
J gets 100% disability benefits from his service due to the IED attack that left him unable to walk without a walker and having to endure surgeries and a titanium plate. The attack destroyed his leg and pelvis. J gives a good portion of his benefits to care for his son. The remainder goes to care for his mother and brother.
But New York City says J makes too much money to get housing assistance. I think these veterans deserve more for their service. Don't you?
Our posturings, our imagined self-importance, the delusion that we have some privileged position in the Universe, are challenged by this point of pale light. Our planet is a lonely speck in the great enveloping cosmic dark. In our obscurity, in all this vastness, there is no hint that help will come from elsewhere to save us from ourselves.
The Earth is the only world known so far to harbor life. There is nowhere else, at least in the near future, to which our species could migrate. Visit, yes. Settle, not yet. Like it or not, for the moment the Earth is where we make our stand.
— Carl Sagan, Pale Blue Dot: A Vision of the Human Future in Space
I want you to watch this TED talk by Brene' Brown. It was passed onto me by a friend after talking through my current path of survival before creativity.
Listening to shame | Brené Brown - YouTube
I'm going to tell you something I'm afraid to admit. I am barely surviving. Over the past couple months I have placed survival before creativity, before anything else. Survival has been my only speed and I can't seem to slow down and pull myself out of this race.
This path of survival over creativity is a path of failure. The path of failure results in shame.
Shame blocks vulnerability. Vulnerability has been the foundation of my work as a photographer and artist. I expect everyone who steps in front of my camera whether it be voluntary or on the street as a stranger, to open themselves to me. I make eye contact, I connect, and a vulnerability is born. It is obvious in my imagery.
I had a follower send me a message about how they were inspired by my hustle. Thank you, but I don't want you to be inspired by my hustle. Hustle means nothing when the only thing you are doing is hustling. Be inspired by my ability to admit my failure, work through this shame. Because I know you have your own to work through.
I want you to be connected to the vulnerability. I want you to understand that hundreds of people pass these streets, that every moment spent here is fleeting, that nothing will every be the same from minute to minute.
Today I am going to talk about friends, family, loved ones, and patrons. Yes, you, the not-so-creative lovers of the arts. This one is for you.
Creatives need you to show up. That's right. We need you to be there at every show, every event, every talk, every exhibit. We need it like we need air. When full time (or even part-time) creatives such as artists and photographers do what they do it isn't a hobby, it is our lifeblood. We pour every bit of anxiety and angst out into what we do with our craft.
It's not enough to send a congrats text or comment on Facebook. It is definitely not enough to "like" a photo on Instagram. We need you to be there when we are have an existential crisis and we especially need you there when we hit a milestone.
Creatives need celebrations too. We need someone to buy us a drink or a cup of coffee, to invite us to dinner. If we say "please come to dinner and celebrate with me" we need you to say yes.
Showing up means you are there with us in the trenches fighting the good fight. When you hear a creative say "it's no big deal, I'm used to it" that's not a good sign.
To those who continue to show up in my life. Thank you. You are the source of my energy.
Show up. That's it. I know it's a big job but I also know you got this.
Six months ago I packed up all my sh*t and moved to NYC. Well, not ALL of it. Some of it is scattered. I've got stuff back in Texas at two different places and I'm pretty sure my first NYC friend is pretty sick of my lone suitcase sitting in her apartment (although her cats may be loving it.) How do I know it was six months ago? Because I count every single month. Hell, I count every day. Another 24 hours down.
What was I thinking? What am I looking for? I was looking to leap. I am for inspiration and I was looking to live out my childhood dream of being an artist in the greatest city ever.
I'm still looking.
Because big lights don't necessarily inspire and big cities don't necessarily welcome you with open arms. Anyone who tells you they were ever immediately a success in NYC is lying through their teeth just to save their poor heart from breaking into a million pieces.
Fake it till you make it!
About a month or so ago, I started feeling my tenacity slide a bit. What am I saying? It slid ALOT. It slide so far that I lost any motivation to pick up my camera. Folks, NYC has NOT been nice to me. She's a total B and she's out for blood (or at least she has been to me.)
But...every single day I pack up my bag, I leave the house rain or shine and I ALWAYS carry my camera. It doesn't matter if I take a single photo that day. My camera is always with me, always ready and always willing, even when I'm not. No one else is going to take those images for me. Most of my days are spent alone. There is no one there to be camera twins with me. There is no one there to pat me on the back and say "great job." There is no one else who is exactly like me, taking exactly the same photos in exactly the same places. There is no one there to "work the corner" or whatever else you are supposed to be doing as a street photographer.
You just have to wing it. That's all there is to it. There are no rules, except the ones you do or don't make up for yourself.
Today I stood in the middle of an overpass in Brooklyn and snapped too numerous to count photos of cars going by under me. I stood there because it was semi-dry despite the fact my feet were soaked. I stood and watched and I waited and I used my camera the only way I know how. My not-so-fancy black Olympus OMD EM1. The camera I just am barely paying off, covered in gaffers tape with brassing on the edges. The camera that some days bangs into subway doors (praise for filters) and other times sits silently tucked away in my bag.
Big lights? Sure. Inspiration? That's up to you to find it.
Read Full Article
Read for later
Articles marked as Favorite are saved for later viewing.
Scroll to Top
Separate tags by commas
To access this feature, please upgrade your account.