Robert Baring's work explores the nocturnal urban world, depicting the nightlife, the beauty, the isolation, and sometimes the alienation present in that world. Born in Oklahoma, Baring came to Texas at the age of six with his family and turned to photography as a hobby briefly while in college. After a lengthy hiatus, he returned to photography, developed his craft, and has exhibited locally in Austin.
As in other growing urban centers, the downtown Austin area has developed rapidly, and it was there that Baring’s early projects mostly found their home. Working in both analog and digital, he has sought to expand street photography's potential as fine art. While his photos have strong formal qualities – both geometric and graphic along with strong contrast - they often also include strong architectural elements which provide context to the urban setting. On the level of interpretation, Baring's images infer a subsurface of drama and perhaps struggle.
Street photography, with its roots as far back as the first daguerreotype, has gone through phases ranging from the gritty street photos of Paul Strand to the night photography of Brassai and on to the humorous dog photos of Elliott Erwitt. Baring's work is a return to the genre's more dramatic roots, combining night, drama, color, and shadow to create a faithful representation of the present urban environment.
On any given night, as with all street photography, events unfold spontaneously in a way that Baring finds similar to jazz: improvisational, impulsive, sometimes interactive. As he hasn't limited his process to digital or film, nor has he confined his work to either color or black
and white. Baring thinks that both have their strengths, and their place. That said, he feels that much of present day street photography is rightly in color, the vernacular mode of our present. "Color is our present burden," says Baring. "Digital photography, compared to its analog predecessor is so easy, that it calls out for constraints and I think that limitation, paradoxically might be the sensitive use of color itself. So even if we can shoot, process, and post a photograph in a few minutes, if an image is intended to have longevity, then a more intelligent use of color, which often can distract from an otherwise strong composition, can raise the level of challenge and produce just that constraint.”