On occasion a photo stops us in our tracks. Does the person in the picture stand in for a universally understood type or social condition? Or, are the traits and signs we read in the picture to be understood as something fundamental about humanity in our time?
One Boss—a photograph of a man with the phrase “ONE BOSS NIGGER” tattooed or marked on his chest—presents us with such questions. When we encounter this picture there is an immediacy and directness between One Boss and us. His gaze and cropped torso seem to be pressed to the surface of the picture frame. We almost touch him with our eyes. What story does he tell us about himself, his condition and our times? And why the tattoo?
Hunter Barnes, the artist who made this picture, has included it in Roadbook, a soon to be published book on photography (Reel Art Press, fall 2015) in conjunction with an exhibition of his art at the Milk Gallery, New York, N.Y. Barnes has developed a reputation as a photographer who poignantly captures the humanity of sub-cultures and other unconventional aspects of American life—serpent handling faith leaders, gang members, motor cycle clubs in New York, Low Rider Clubs in New Mexico, prisoners and others on the fringes of mainstream society. See here.
The artist believes these people are often misrepresented or misunderstood and seeks to offer alternative views onto their humanity and their worlds. Always on the move, he stops long enough to see intently and to gain the trust of his subjects.