Artist Spotlight: Barry Male / Alternative Occasions Photography

Barry Male takes photos that capture the spirit of the person, the place and of the occasion

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Following an evening of photography at the Mansion House for the UNESCO Creative Clusters mid-year meeting in York which took place during the Mediale, we had a quick catch up before continuing our evening at the Alexander Whitely in Conversation lecture, which took place within the Yorkshire Museum, in partnership with the Yorkshire Philosophical Society.

Photographer Barry trades as Alternative Occasions and joined the Guild of Media Arts in our inaugural year. Previously a photographer for the Mayoress of York and award-winning documentary filmmaker, Barry has a lot to bring to the creative scene in York.

To begin with, we wanted to know what was a draw-to in York for Barry and what has kept him here, despite being a well-travelled man.

Barry has been in York for twenty years, arriving via Merseyside, London, Windermere, and Lancaster. Acknowledging the beautiful city, Barry is realistic in accepting the high profile, often tourist-focused events, activities and venues we collaborate with but that sometimes feel like competition. As our discussion moves along, it's clear that the richness of York's offer for tourists and residents is often at loggerheads, and as public-facing bodies working both locally, nationally and internationally, we have to graft extremely hard to be accessible and open to everyone, both visitors and residents-alike. Recent examples were the Mediale, which welcomed 80,000 visitors from around the world and the Mystery Plays, which welcomes a smaller yet equally enthusiastic crowd.

In a city where Barry feels like it can be difficult to get creative initiatives off the ground - an attitude which is compounded by deep-rooted views - there are some opportunities for York to capitalise on, such as, creating an Arts Centre. As we chat, we throw opinions back and forth on where this leaves York, which is viewed by some national bodies as extremely well off. So where does the line lie? What are we short of and what do we not need? The answers are many and complex, but certainly something as a Guild that we are working towards, which together we both agree on. Barry notes:

Launching the Guild of Media Arts was a pretty remarkable achievement: the challenge now is to find ways to nurture the creative impulse and create real art, rather than add to the digital floss that fails to inform or enrich the spirit, the mind or the human condition.

Continuing our discussion, we tackled the subject of technology and how we are - in Barry's opinion - besotted by it. But that's not always a problem. As Barry muses, we need to see it as a tool available to serve a greater purpose. Real creativity wells from a deep place, and that isn't easily accessed in a land full of distractions.

[By the very nature of being the writer of this blog...Barry's comments hit home, maybe too hard - ed]

As a man of action over talk, Barry has ideas on how to engage the wider community in harnessing our inner Human Condition - that which unites us, binds us and frees us from the binds of technology. But for Barry, it's clear that creativity for creativity's sake isn't as powerful as creativity with a purpose. One approach could be to hold a high profile competition to inspire us with a vision of how our lives could be if we were to unreservedly embrace all of the changes that are necessary if we are to prevent our planet, our city and our lives from over-heating from climate change.

"Embracing the Future". Technology is part of the answer and we can use it to show the way, especially if it taps into the fascination that is already there in people's minds.

An extremely valid point and topic for debate, which I say is especially relevant in a City that is A UNESCO designated City of Media Arts, to which Barry reminds us that we need to bear in mind that Media Arts isn't necessarily Digital Arts....Or is it?

This, ultimately hints at one of the challenges faced by the Media Arts world: how do we define what we mean by Media Arts? What does it encompass? And how can we collectively agree on our understanding enough so that we can fully engage, debate and harness the power of media arts?

Screenshot of Barry Male's Website, Alternative Occasions
Barry Male's website, Alternative Occasions

Barry Male is a photographer based in York. You can browse his portfolio here: Drop him an email here: