Delicate, yet dramatic, exquisitely coloured photographs

Western Daily Press - Wednesday, April 10th, 2002

Flower Powers

Variety is the spice for a psychotherapist who turned photographer, writes Suzanne Savill

Life can work out in unexpected ways. Take Barbara Manzi-Fe - she worked in fashion photography, and then became a psychotherapist.

But after 17 years working in psychotherapy she has made a fresh impact working as a photographer specialising in detailed studies of flowers.

Barbara began to take pictures of flowers as a hobby and only exhibited her work for the first time last year after encouragement by an artist friend who spotted some of her work hanging at her 17th century farmhouse home near Stroud in Gloucestershire.

“I suppose I started it because it was a contrast to the work I did with people,” she says.

Yet it could be argued that the way her photographs put familiar flowers into a new perspective is as much the result of her training as a psychotherapist as her training in photography. Her collection ‘Magic in Nature’ some of which is on display in a group photographic exhibition  at St.George’s Undercroft, Brandon Hill, Bristol- owes much to her ability to observe.

“People tell me that after seeing my  photographs they look at flowers in a different way. I like to go beyond the surface and see the beauty deep within”, she says. Rather like psychotherapy?

I certainly found it very fulfilling to help people go beyond the surface.

“There is something wonderful when they gain confidence and don’t have to pretend any more.”

“I suppose you could say they start to open like flowers.”

“Part of my regrets no longer being in that privileged and intimate position of working with people at such deep level, and seeing them developing different patterns of behaviour, but I have decided at the moment to concentrate on my photography.”

Given that anyone can point a camera with a close up lens  at a flower, Barbara’s talent for observation may help explain why her work has become so popular so quickly.

After showing her work at the annual  Stroud Valley’s open Studio, she was invited to display her work at the fashionable Riverstation restaurant in Bristol.

Her Magic in Nature collection will be featured in exhibitions later this year at the Brewery Arts Centre Cirencester; Hooks house Pottery, Westonbirt; and in the Stroud Valleys Open Studios Exhibition. Her photographs of flowers, mostly from her own garden, but also from other English gardens and the Swiss Alps- bring out the individuality of different species, showing the tissue- paper quality of petals in some, and the brightness and baldness of others

“It is important to choose the right moment and the right light.”

” I have to set the alarm for 5am if I want to photograph a Morning Glory as it begins to open up,” says  Barbara, who always uses the slowest possible shutter speed.”

” When it just rained and the sun comes out, I have to run out into the garden and take photographs.”

Barbara, 58, was born in Switzerland, and moved to London to study photography.

She became interested in psychotherapy after her first marriage broke up and she lived on her own in Somerset with her two sons.

” I became fascinated by the way in which our childhood can leave us stuck with certain patterns of behaviour,” she said.

She is married to her 2nd husband, David, who is part Italian, and believes she has found contentment in her personal life and in her work.

“Previously in my life I have strived to do things. This is something that has come from inside me,” she says.

* Barbara Manzi-Fé’s Magic in Nature is part of the Lens group photographic exhibition at St. George’s Undercroft, Brandon Hill (off Park Street) in Bristol, which continues until the 25th May. Telephone 0117 923 0359 for more information.

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