FRAMES Photography Podcast with Barbara Mensch

On today’s episode, W. Scott Olsen talks to Barbara Mensch, a New York-based photographer and author whose work has been exhibited in numerous prestigious galleries and museums.

You can listen to this interview using our podcast player below, but we strongly encourage you to subscribe to the podcast in your podcast app so that you don’t miss any future show episodes.

Barbara Mensch is a fine art photographer who probes her subject matter with the curiosity and stamina of a detective. Born in Brooklyn, New York, she began to draw at an early age, attending classes at The Brooklyn Museum Studio School and the Art Students League as a teenager. Entering Hunter College at the age of 17, she won a scholarship to study in Florence, Italy, where she was introduced not only to the work of the great Italian artists, such as Botticelli and Michelangelo but also the great Italian directors Vittorio Di Sica and Roberto Rossellini, whose grainy black and white films mesmerized her in their brutally honest, content driven depictions of reality. 

After graduating from Hunter College in the early 1980s, Mensch became an illustrator at Ms. Magazine. During this period, she developed an interest in photography and was employed by Knoedler Gallery, a major art gallery located next to The Frick Museum. She assisted in photographing gallery inventory, including works by Alexander Calder, Marc Chagall, Claude Monet, and Norman Rockwell, among others. Barbara would often visit the Frick collection with her sketchbook, drawing from the magnificent pieces in the permanent collection: Rembrandt, Goya, Monet, and her favorite, Giovanni Bellini’s “St.Francis.”

As she evolved into a photographer, Mensch was particularly drawn to the quiet retreat of the darkroom, where she pored through photo technical manuals, one after the other. She was particularly intrigued with translating tonalities in the fine print, her background in drawing providing her with the knowledge and study for the endless possibilities of light.

In her early experimental installations and exhibitions, Barbara contributed to expanding the medium of photography by exploring unconventional ways of shooting and presenting images made from the Polaroid SX70 camera (then as popular as the iPhone is now). She also presented visual stories marking time using sequential imagery placed on tables and the ground.

Some of these early works were exhibited at P.S.1 (now a wing of MoMA), The Kitchen in New York, and The Los Angeles Institute of Contemporary Art. Her images were also included in early photographic publications, including the seminal “Photography: The Problematic Model” by NFS Press, edited by Peter D’Agostino and Lew Thomas.

Her widely regarded images have been the subject of numerous articles, internet publications, blogs, and commentaries, including The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, The New York Observer, Time Out New York, The Daily News, The New York Post, The Village Voice, Afterimage, Exposure Magazine and many others.  Mensch has published two books on New York’s legendary Fulton Market, which she photographed under the scrutinizing eyes of federal law enforcement and organized crime.  Mensch’s monograph, New York Photographs, was published with an essay by art historian Bonnie Yochelson in 2013.  Her book, In The Shadow Of Genius was published in 2018 by Empire State Editions (an imprint of Fordham University Press). Her latest publication A Falling-Off Place — The Transformation of Lower Manhattan was published in the fall of 2023 by Empire Editions with a forward by NY Times Reporter and author, Dan Barry.

Her work is represented by museums, collectors, and important libraries, including the Museum of Modern Art, the Brooklyn Museum, the Bibliotheque Nationale, and individuals, including Sir Elton John.



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Every year we release four quarterly printed editions of FRAMES Magazine. Each issue contains 112 pages printed on the highest quality 140g uncoated paper. You receive the magazine delivered straight to your doorstep. We feature both established and emerging photographers of different genres. We pay very close attention to new, visually striking, thought-provoking imagery, while respecting the long-lasting tradition of photography in its purest incarnation. Learn more >>>

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