Life on Mars

Self-taught photographer John Barbiaux is a master of the everyday, capturing everything from sweeping cityscapes and natural vistas to the quiet streets of small American towns. “Life on Mars began in 2020 and returns to my roots on the outer fringes of Pittsburgh. Far from urban crowds, I began to see my town, Mars, in a new light. I was both an inhabitant and outsider. I traversed empty neighborhoods, embracing instinct in clicking the shutter. Absent of figures, the inanimate subjects of these photos – houses, cars, fences, lamp posts – take on an otherworldly presence. What’s conjured is a space at once familiar and strange, embedded with unseen narratives. The more I probe the mundane, the more I find that familiarity is often a façade: a deeper look and one arrives in foreign territory.” The pictures are nostalgic, evoking stalwarts of 1970s American colour photography like Joel Meyerowitz and Stephen Shore. Lights shine out from behind closed windows, casting an orange-yellow glow onto freshly-cut lawns and wooden porches. “Initially, I shot the images with film and developed them in our kitchen sink. I wanted to continue creating the same vintage look, so I purchased a modern lens that uses a nearly identical design from the 1950s.”

All images courtesy John Barbiaux, from Life on Mars.