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Abstract photographer uses light, color to tell a story
Barbers work in display this month at Inman Perk
An example of Charles-Ryan Barber's abstract photography, which will be on display this month at Inman Perk on the Gainesville downtown square.

When you have ADHD, it's a long path to get from what's going on in your head to a decipherable sentence. At least according to Charles-Ryan Barber, 28, of Athens.

But what if you could take a shortcut, skip all that translation and communicate your thoughts in an instant?

That's what Barber found when he discovered a love for photography.

His photos are on display this month at Inman Perk Coffee House, 102 Washington St. on the Gainesville downtown square.

"I just think of things differently," Barber said.

"I always have to translate what I'm thinking whenever I have a conversation with somebody. I have to translate quite a bit from the craziness of my brain to something that would be relatively intelligible by another human being. Photography was kind of a surprise as a sort of more instant, more universally recognizable form of communication that I could do."

Barber began his college career with the aim of becoming a writer.

"I love writing, but I'm not very efficient at it. It takes me a long time," he said.

"I decided to try out photography and photojournalism, and it just sort of exploded in me. It was just this passion. Visual storytelling is, basically, I guess, what I fell in love with."

After he made the switch, Barber found that photography came natural to him, and he's been getting jobs ever since.

Living in Athens is a plus, since Barber gets many opportunities to shoot videos and photos for musicians. He also does weddings and portraits, but nothing run-of-the-mill. There is a unique mischievous quality to the images Barber captures.

"I try to bring in unique perspectives to everything I shoot," he said. "Normally, people are disinclined to take photos when there might be something embarrassing going on."

Barber credits his college professor with helping him feel comfortable in uncomfortable situations; his first assignment was to find 36 strangers to photograph.

But in his show at Inman Perk, Barber focuses instead on abstract photography.

"It just started with this random, crazy idea that I had when I was riding in a car out in California in one of my travels this summer," he said.

"I just wanted to see what a long exposure would look like of the car headlights and stoplights and surrounding lights, if I moved my camera all around and spun it, even."

The method needed some tweaking, but Barber kept practicing, and he was "just surprised by the results that came out."

What came out was neon spirals, swirling streaks of color on a black canvas. And what the camera lens captures when the naked eye fails us.

"It's funny, you can tell the streetlights because they're dotted lines, and we don't normally think about this, but streetlights are on alternating current. They're on the city power grid and, imperceptibly to our eyes, they flicker," he said.

"We don't notice that, but the camera does."

Another print is "entirely the dashboard of my brother's car."

Barber said the large-scale prints, all of them at least 24 inches wide, focus on light and color.

"Not only are they different colors, but they're different white balances, for different headlights," he said.

"Also things that our naked eyes don't tend to notice quite as much, at least not consciously. We'll notice that fluorescent lights just sort of feel nasty, but we don't really understand why."

After the prints were finished, Barber said he saw things that he didn't notice in the editing process.

"It made for some interesting prints, and especially the ones where it's spinning. It kind of looks like this vortex of light."

He said he hopes people enjoy viewing the photos as much as he enjoyed taking them.

"I really just put them up so people can see something that they've never seen before. Something that might inspire them, that might start a creative spark in their own minds."