Tina Barney on how her career began

The photographer talks to CR about her new book, which collates long-lost images of friends and family from the 70s and 80s, and reflects on how the iPhone has changed portraiture

When Tina Barney was 23 years old, she was married with two children and living in New York where she’d been all her life. A friend of hers asked her to be a volunteer at the Museum of Modern Art in the photography department.

“I knew nothing about photographers, I didn’t know who anyone was apart from Richard Avedon,” she tells CR. “That was around 1972, and from then I started collecting, that was during a time where important photographers’ work would be around $200 or $300. I became really interested in photography.” 

Soon after, Barney and her family moved to Sun Valley, Idaho, which lacked the buzz of the city but fortunately had a small art centre with a photography department. “It had photography teachers who were young, on the ball and just a terrific group of people for me to meet, so I started making pictures, taking classes, doing workshops and that was the beginning,” says Barney. “In that little mountain town ski resort in the middle of nowhere, I had my first show and I probably would never have become a photographer if I hadn’t left New York City. I was a big fish in a small pond.” 

Top: The Lifeguard; Above: Touch the Swordfish. All images: The Beginning by Tina Barney, published by Radius Books