Exposure: Kirt Barnett

Mixing the fantastical and chaotic with the everyday, Los Angeles-based photographer Kirt Barnett presents unexpected visions. Gem Fletcher speaks to her about her work

Tomie Kawakami, the infamous anti-hero in Junji Ito’s iconic horror manga series Tomie (1987), is renowned for her magnetic beauty. Throughout the series, her presence unravels intense psychological and emotional entanglements as men fall in love with her and are driven into jealous rages that often result in insanity or brutal acts of violence.

What complicates this hedonistic tale is that Tomie is immortal. When she is killed – which happens continually – she replicates herself in an endless regeneration cycle. Tomie represents the modern femme fatale – a strong, powerful, unapologetic character who knows what she wants and cannot be contained.

For Los Angeles-based photographer and director Kirt Barnett, Tomie represents a particular dimension of unsettling femininity that informs and inspires her own storytelling. “I’ve always been interested in showing women in different forms to how they are typically seen,” Barnett tells me from her home in Silverlake. “What drives the work is my desire to show beauty and sexiness with fear and provocation.” This intention to focus on the nuance and contradiction of the human condition is the beating heart of Barnett’s practice.

Top and above: Stills from Swallow by Girl Puppy