Delicate, yet dramatic, exquisitely coloured photographs

The Citizen, 24th September 2002 by Victoria Temple

BODY AND SOUL    The Snapper  with a steadying  hand.

Barbara Manzi-Fe’s garden in  the Cotswolds is a scene of high drama. It might be a raindrop poised on the cusp of petal, a fly clinging to a pollen encrusted stamen or the lush curve of a velveteen petal.

This is the secret world of hidden beauty Barbara has revealed through photography. A former psychotherapist Barbara is skilled at helping people explore their inner emotions. But her photographs have revealed her skills at a different type of exploration. She uses a camera lens to expose the vibrant colour, exiting form and texture of the flowers in her own garden.

Her pictures are taken just a few inches from a flower, photographed in situ, usually in her own garden. She prefers to work outside, where “things happen”.- like mercurial, silver drops of a rain on the white curling petal of a Michauxia fllower. Natural light is vital, and a steady hand- she doesn’t use a tripod. Working on this scale means the effect of the slightest wind is dramatic.
At such close range the depth of focus is just a centimetre or two, but Barbara produces dramatic effects, with the sharpest details a fly or edge of a petal, emerging from brilliant colours “In each of them I try and get something magic so that they are not just a representation of the flower. It is about form, light and colour. You see flowers in a totally different way than before,”.

She started photographing flowers initially as a hobby, but when her artist neighbour, Judy Swaffin Vans spotted one of her pictures on the kitchen wall, she invited Barbara to exhibit her work along her own paintings and her husbands sculptures. She exhibited for the first time at Stroud Open Studios in 2001 and again this year .Now she is to have her first solo exhibition, ‘Magic in Nature’ opening at the Stroud Subscription Rooms on Saturday, September 28.
For Barbara ‘Magic in Nature’ represents a renaissance for her love of photography. Although she trained in photography in London nearly 40 years ago, she retrained and has worked as a psychotherapist for the past 17 years.
Psychotherapy was, she says “an amazing experience- to be so intimately connected to people”.

Yet it was also extremely challenging. You have got to be aware all the time and make sure you are clear what is your own emotion and what’s theirs. You need to be able to step back all the time and say, what’s going on here.”

Family relationships are a key to understanding our behaviour, and she says many of us continue to be influenced by family relationships and sibling rivalries into adulthood. She believes that “sibling rivalry” propelled her into photography. As the youngest of four children growing up in Zurich, Switzerland, she struggled to assert her own identity.

Photography was something she was “good at” and fulfilled a need to be noticed. Now aged 59, she is delighted that her older brother has taken a keen interest in her work and is actively promoting her photographs in Switzerland.
Barbara moved to London aged 20 to study photography after being smitten with photography at 14 when an aunt gave her a Kodak box camera.
Photography allowed her to “show people something that they wouldn’t see otherwise.

It is that sense of discovering the unseen that Barbara has brought to both photography and psychotherapy. As her photographic career forges ahead, it has become her focus, but she is grateful for the insights she has gained from her therapeutic work. There is a real core inside a person, just like a flower; that is so beautiful, but gets covered over by anxieties and difficulties in life,” she says. “Meeting that in another person and for them to acknowledge that for themselves is an amazing gift to both people.”

Magic in Nature opens at Stroud Subscription Rooms on Friday September 27 and continues until Friday, October 11, Monday to Saturday10-5. To find out more about her work log on to

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