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not in your face  

not in your face  

About the NIYF project

These photographs are not about the t-shirts per se. Not In Your Face is a series about identity, validation, and perception. I look for individuals who stand out in a crowd by the choice of the message on their back. The messages are combinations of pictures and words that reveal much about the identity of the wearer. They tell us who these people are and who they aren’t, who they want to be and what they want us to know about them. They demonstrate how individuals wear a kind of badge of honor that says “I belong to this group, not the other.” They advertise their hopes, ideals, dislikes, or political views. These individuals create their own iconography exploring the cultural, political and social issues that impact our lives today. In light of bullying and stereotyping, Not In Your Face seeks a better understanding of our own judgments and biases. It presents a time capsule of the kind of messages that people are willing to wear and share without fear of reprisal.

About NIYF stories


A few years ago I photographed a young man who called himself Doobie. He was entertaining and was obviously loved by his fellow travelers.

Venice Beach is a fertile ground for all kinds of t-shirt wearers. I find that the most up to the minute messages occur there and then six months later I see those messages on the streets of New York. They are bi-coastal. When I returned the following year to the boardwalk I was met with the news that Doobie had passed away. His “group” was in mourning and I saw their pain. The story changed from telling to telling but the gist of it was he was trying to help someone in trouble and he himself was stabbed. I don’t know where this happened or when but his buddies remembered that I had photographed him. I found his picture and had some copies made and we decided to have a memorial for him one evening at sunset on the beach. There were a few of his friends who took the lead but the majority of the people on the beach that night didn’t even know him but took part in our ceremony. Some told stories about him and it was oddly very much like a wake you might attend for a relative. It was clear no one knew much about him but there was a solidarity of spirit and purpose they all shared. They took care of each other. There were boundaries you never crossed. Where you were from or where you were going was never discussed at the least by me. I found that when each of them introduced themselves they mostly had nicknames. But when I was alone with them, photographing them many would tell me their given name which I kept to myself and tried to forget.

Someone said quietly that Doobie believed in God so they decided to say a prayer. It wasn’t a prayer I had ever heard before but layers and layers of thoughts and words about their lives and why they were here. The on-going theme was “Do unto others as you would have done unto you.” By the end everyone was in a circle and before long everyone was holding a picture, placing it gently in the surf and watching as it floated away. It was a fond farewell for “Doobie.”


On Venice Beach in California there is a large population of homeless teens and runaways. Gabe came up to me one day wearing a t-shirt that said “Fuck You You Fucking little Fuck.” He was very young and very skinny, was shy but was very curious about what I was up to. I took his picture but he seemed to hang around for awhile which was unusual. Sometimes if one of my models looks hungry I will offer them some money for their efforts. Most of the time they will immediately go to the boardwalk and get some food. But not Gabe. He stayed and seemed to want to talk. It was nice because he was very interested in what I was doing. He explained he was named for the angel Gabriel and did I know about him. He gave me a detailed account of how Gabriel is a “messenger” but he he said is still not sure what his message was. He was very philosophical about his life. The following day he came with another shirt he said he got at Good Will and could he pose. I explained this project was about “Identity” and how I don’t show the same person more than once. So we talked about all kinds of things including how he ended up sleeping on the boardwalk but that was his business and I won’t repeat it here except to say it broke my heart. Each day Gabe came to visit even sometimes bringing me a sandwich from the shelter (we shared it) and then he asked me what kind of coffee I like. Then came a Starbucks I know he had to pay a couple of dollars for so I told him I had quit drinking coffee so he wouldn’t waste his money on it. Each day he had a different outfit on and although I couldn’t use it I took his picture. But then one day the truth came out and as I suspected he said that I reminded him of his Mother and that he missed her. I was crying inside but I said I am sure she misses you too. He said that was probably true.

So I hesitated but said maybe when I get home I could send her some of the pictures I had taken of him. He too hesitated but in the end thought it a nice idea. Then he asked me for a piece of paper I thought to write down her address. But below is the resulting letter. Right there I saw the plight Gabe was in. The fact he thought the cops were possibly after him made me think twice about getting involved and getting him in trouble. If he wanted to go home he could have but not with my actions helping the police to find him. I did not in the end send the letter to his Mother. I am not a counselor or a psychiatrist and did not know how this action would effect everyone involved. To this day I still wonder what Gabriel’s message was but I think it had something to do with knowing your place and knowing when someone wants you to get involved in their life.gabes_note2

Traveling Exhibition

Available through Susan Barnett are two museum quality traveling exhibitions featuring images not only from the book T: A Typology of T-Shirts, but other images from the Not In Your Face portfolio.

The photographs are framed and crate-ready for shipping. The choice of photographs would be determined by the Curator’s choice, theme of the exhibition, the specific interests of the community, the availability of space in the gallery or museum or an overview of the project itself on t-shirt culture. Portfolio images are tagged and categorized by topic or issue (political, social, environmental etc.) to assist in curation.

Susan would be available for the planning and installation of the work in collaboration with the Curator and the goals of the exhibition. She would travel to the exhibition and make herself available for lectures and book signings. She is interested in starting a dialogue around the project with special emphasis on the concepts of judgment. There is an illustrated lecture available and she would be interested in any creative program such as students showcasing their own t-shirts for discussion. One of the purposes of this typology is to encourage the very act of looking in order to determine the similarities and differences apparent in these time capsules uniquely taken from the back.

The photographs are:

35 prints
17 x 22″ / 43.18 x 55.8 cm, framed in white wooden frames with Plexiglas

40 prints
12 x 18″ / 30.4 x 45.7 cm, framed in white metal frames with Plexiglas

All frames have wire ready for hanging.
There are custom boxes ready for shipping.

Conferences and Talks
  • Silvereye, Future Forward, Heinz Endowments Artist Talk, You Tube, 2011
  • Fresh Talks, Artist Talk on Branding, Los Angeles, CA, 2011
  • U.S. Representative at FIND (Forming Intersections and Dialogues), Reversible: Narrating Identity from the Inside Out and the Outside In, NYU/Tisch, Abu Dhabi, UAE, Dec. 6-10, 2014
  • Photography for Educators, Contemporary Inspirations Panel, moderated by Eliza Lamb, Columbia University, April 6, 2015

Solo and Upcoming Exhibitions

University of Maine Museum of Art, Not In Your Face, Bangor, Maine

Rayko, San Francisco, CA

Uno Art Space, T-Shirt Typologie, Stuttgart, Germany

Leica Gallery, Los Angeles, CA
Empty Quarter Gallery, Silk Roses and Sneakers, Dubai, UAE

Center for Fine Arts Photography, Ft. Collins, CO

Griffin Museum of Photography, Worchester, MA
De Santos Gallery, Houston, TX

Group Exhibitions
  • Pop-Up Show / Butcher, curated by Tina Schelhorn, Arles, France
  • Ladies Only, curated by Tina Schelhorn, Place de Voltaire, Arles, France
  • Exposure 17th Annual PRC Juried Exhibition, juried by Kristen Gresh, Museum of Fine Arts Boston, MA
  • What We Have Within, JVS Project Space, NYC
  • Fotofilmic 14, dnj Gallery, Santa Monica, CA
  • Fotofilmic 14, Back Gallery Project, Vancouver
  • Colors of Life, Pepco Edison Place Gallery, Washington, D.C.
  • Fenceville, United Photo Industries, Boston, MA
  • Lens 2014, The Perspective Gallery, Chicago, IL
  • Enigmatic Object, Johalla Projects, Filter Photo, Chicago, IL
  • One Shot: One World Exhibition, Los Angeles, California
  • It’s a Thin Line Between Love and Hate, United Photo Industries, Brooklyn, New York
  • Lens 2013, Perspective Gallery, Chicago, IL
  • 3rd Annual Juried Exhibition, Viridian Gallery, New York, NY
  • PhotoID Santa Cruz Museum of Art and History, Santa Cruz, CA
  • Eye for an Ear, Open Salon China House, Georgetown, Penang, Malaysia
  • Top 50 Critical Mass Exhibition, Jennifer Schwartz Gallery, Atlanta, GA
  • Top 50 Critical Mass Exhibition, SE Museum of Photography, Daytona Beach, FL
  • Portraits in Contemporary Photography, Drift Gallery, Kittery, ME
  • Center Forward Exhibition Rayko Photo Center, San Francisco, CA
  • Musings, Photo Center NW, Seattle, WA
  • Border/Body MECA Mediterraneo Centro Artistico, Almeira, Spain
  • Border/Body Gallery MD_S, Wroclaw, Poland
  • Worldwide Photographic Biennale Exhibition, Palais de Glace, Buenos Aires, Argentina
  • Portraits Center for Fine Art Photography, Ft. Collins, CO
  • Center Forward, Denver Airport, Denver, CO
  • 31 Women in Photography, Humble Arts Foundation, Hasted Kraeutler Gallery NY, NY
  • Lens 2012, The Perspective Gallery, Chicago, IL
  • Change of Pace, Detroit Center for Contemporary Photography, Detroit, MI
  • 18th Annual Juried Competition, Griffin Museum of Photography, Worchester, MA
  • An Eye for an Ear, Open Salon Arles 2012, Arles, France
  • Center Forward, Center for Fine Art Photography, Ft. Collins, CO
  • Picture Society, Space Gallery, Denver, CO
  • Future Forward, Silvereye, Pittsburgh, PA
  • Center Forward, Center for Fine Art Photography, Fort Collins, CO
  • Center Forward, Denver Airport, Denver, CO
  • 17th Annual Juried Competition, Griffin Museum of Photography, Worchester, MA
  • Members Exhibition, Houston Center for Photography, Houston, TX
  • Photo Annual Awards, Final Wall Gallery, Templice Spa, Prague, Czechoslavakia
  • Px3 Winners Exhibition, Espace Dupon, Paris, France
  • 1st Juried Exhibition, Detroit Center for Contemporary Photography, Detroit, MI
  • Photo Review Philadelphia University of the Arts: Gallery 1401, Philadelphia, PA
  • Spectra 2010 Silvermine, New Canaan, CT
  • Human + B-eing, Center For Fine Art Photography, Ft. Collins, CO

  • Arles 2015 Les Rencontres De La Photographie, Nuits de la Roquette, rue de Porcelets, France
  • Paraty em Foco, Convocatoria em Foco, 2014, Sao Paulo, Brazil
  • Boutographies Festival, Montpellier, France
  • Kolga Tbilisi Photo, Ladies Only, Tbilisi, Georgia
  • PhotoIreland, Dublin, Ireland
  • XXV edicion de los Encuentros Abiertos Festival de la Luz, Buenos Aires, Argentina
  • Format Exposure 13, Format Festival, Factory, Derby, UK
  • Kaunas Festival, Celebrations Kaunas, Lithuania
  • Ballarat International Foto Biennale, Ballarat, Australia
  • Encontros de Imagem Festival, Love Will Tear Us Apart, Braga, Portugal
  • Gallery of Centro Americano, Zoomfest, Medellin, Columbia
  • Photo Vista 2012 Festival, Directors Choice, Krasnodar, Russia
  • GuatePhoto, Ciudad de Guatemala, Guatemala City, Guatemala
  • New York Photo Festival, Provocation, Powerhouse, Brooklyn, NY
  • Noviembre 2011, Atlantica Collectivas, Centro de Fotographica, Tenerife, Spain
  • XVII edicion de los Encuentros Abiertos Festival de la Luz, Buenos Aires, Argentina