Lights Left On

Rosie Barnes

In her childhood it was always impressed upon Rosie Barnes and her siblings to never leave a light on in a room that wasn’t occupied. The reasons were simple and clear — it was a waste of money and resources. She still sticks to this childhood rule and it remains problematic for her to see lights left on in empty rooms and buildings.

Over the past few years, she has become increasingly drawn to the sight of lights within our landscapes that remain switched on during daylight — either mistakenly left on, or via some malfunctioning circuit.

At night and in darkness they provide an essential light of practical use and safety, yet by day, these Lights Left On, jar and create a disruption. And as they are lit by the natural light that surrounds them, they become simply an object, not a useful tool.

As a person who finds light (particularly artificial light), from a sensory perspective, highly over stimulating, she is very attracted to this idea of lights being reduced to mere objects. These Lights Left On have been somehow minimised by the space and light that surrounds them.

Whilst they bestow an unsettling beauty upon these landscapes, the Lights Left On also offer a more uneasy comment on our casual wastage of resources.

Rosie Barnes is a fine art and documentary photographer, with a BA in photography from Brighton University, England, making work about the environment and our relationship with the natural world. She also makes images and stories about family, disability/difference and community.

Her long term project ‘A Peculiar Convenience’, a tragi-comedic study of our relationship with the natural world, was included in Val Williams’ show ‘New Natural History (1999)’. She has continued with the work and it was more recently awarded as winner at the Urbanautica International Awards. In 2020 she was the winner of the Patron Award at the Format Photo Festival for this work.  In November ‘A Peculiar Convenience’ will be in a group show of 15 international artists — ‘City Life with Nature’, at the Lishui Photography Festival in China.

Rosie is the author of photobook ‘Understanding Stanley – Looking through Autism (2014)’, a highly personal, long term project about her eldest son, published widely in international media. She has had a number of documentary story commissions from magazines in the UK and Europe and has exhibited in galleries and festivals in the UK and across Europe, including at the Hereford Photography Festival, the National Museum of Photography and TV, the National Portrait Gallery. Also in Frankfurt, Paris and Bratislava.

Rosie lives and works in London and is currently working on a commission for the Wellcome Collection, to extend her portrait project about autistic women — ‘No You’re Not’, some of which will be exhibited in November at Photo Oxford.