Barbara Diener

Born in 1982 in Germany, Barbara Diener received her BFA in Photography from the California College of the Arts and MFA in Photography from Columbia College Chicago.

Her work has been exhibited nationally and internationally and her photographs are part of several private and institutional collections including the New Mexico Museum of Art and the Museum of Contemporary Photography.

Diener has participated in several artist residency programs including the Fields Project in Oregon, IL; ACRE in Steuben, WI and HATCH Projects through the Chicago Artist Coalition. She is a winner of Flash Forward 2013, the recipient of a Follett Fellowship at Columbia College Chicago and was awarded the Albert P. Weisman Award in 2012 and 2013. In 2015 and 2018 she received an Individual Artist Grant from the Chicago Department of Cultural Affairs and Events.

Diener is the Collection Manager in the Department of Photography at the Art Institute of Chicago and teaches photography at Oakton Community College and at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago.

In June 2018 Daylight Books published Diener’s first book of her body of work Phantom Power.

Phantom Power

Phantom Power explores my ongoing interest in the intersection of science and faith, the limits of scientific research and photography’s longstanding mistaken ability to capture truth. The world of the paranormal, Spiritualism and theories about the afterlife are ripe with opportunities to visually explore such curiosities.

In my previous body of work, Sehnsucht, I photographed in small, rural towns that triggered childhood memories. During that process, I met and became fascinated with a woman named Kathy. She owns the diner in her town and lives on her husband’s family farm, which is haunted by his ancestors. Her belief in the spectral sparked my own interest in the unexplained.

The camera is a crucial tool for most paranormal investigators, so it was a natural step for me to become an amateur ghost hunter myself. Photography has been linked to the spirit world since the 1860s with the popularity of spirit photography and post-mortem portraits. Soon after the advent of photography, the Fox Sisters invented Spiritualism and since its invention photography has lent a sense of immortality to its subjects.

In recent years the paranormal has received amplified media attention through numerous ‘reality’ television programs that sensationalize any phenomena for the camera. On the contrary, my approach is self-reflective and curious. To make the resulting images I have adopted both traditional and contemporary methods of capturing the invisible, as well as employed my own interpretation of the magical and mystical.

To view more of Barbara Diener’s work please visit her website.