Local Artist Check-In: Rich Tarbell

Posted on April 1, 2015 by


Photographer Rich Tarbell has collaborated with Stephanie Helvin and Mallory Paige of Moonlight Circus to create silhouettes that convey the movement and strength in their aerial acts.

Tarbell says, “It occurred to me the aerialist acts would make for a mysterious and attractive silhouette fully body portrait… We rented the warehouse of the IX Art Park, which is an amazing resource for an art project of this scale. We had a game plan going in and then amended and improved on some of the ideas and lighting for the second shooting session. I leaned on the aerialists to tone down their usually active, athletic, and daring performance into simpler movements ending in poses. Through the collaborative effort I think we were able to capture their talent, beauty, and grace in a visual format that instills a bit of mystery to the viewer.”
Rich Kiss-1

Rich Tarbell

Tell us a little about yourself. Where are you from? If not the Charlottesville area, what brought you here?

I am from Dayton, Ohio – the land of Guided By Voices where we cut our pizza into squares and drink quarts of beer. I came to Charlottesville in 1987 for grad school and never left.

What are you working on right now? 

Video and photography projects for four bands’ upcoming albums but since they have not publicly announced their own releases, I should not divulge the band names.

When and why did you become an artist? 

I struggle with the term artist. I am just a guy who occasionally has a cool idea and is decent at using the simple machine that is a camera to make that vision happen.

What artists influence(d) you most? 

The Replacements. Like their music, my photography is technically not perfect, maybe a little out of tune, and there is usually a fair amount of alcohol involved.

What aspects of life excite you, stir your affections, fuel your passions, inspire your art? 

I am deeply involved in the local music scene. I am always amazed how many outstanding bands we have in this (still relatively) small town. I do what I can to support the ones that move me the most and to support the scene as a whole.

What do you want people to take away from your work?

A receipt from buying a print.

Finish this sentence. Photography to me is… 

… my primary source of travel opportunities and social connections. I have been lucky to collaborate with and develop friendships with some pretty talented people as well as visit big cities all over the country that I had never been to previously.

What does the not-so-distant future hold for you and your art?

I have no big scale projects in mind to create next mostly due to simple economics. I have gotten to a place where it becomes harder and harder to top myself without incurring significant expenses.

What showings/events/classes of yours should we look forward to?

The “Moonlight Silhouettes” series debuts at The Garage on Friday, April 10th (from 5-7pm) and the doors will also be open for an “Open Gallery at The Garage” during the TomTom Festival on Friday, April 17th (from 5-7pm).

What advice do you have for anyone who wants to pursue a career as an artist? 

Keep a steady side job that pays the bills. My brother Rob is a relatively well-known mid-career artist whose smoke paintings hang in major galleries from New York City to London to Hong Kong to Miami yet he still maintains his college teaching job on the side for more reliable income.

What makes Cville special for artists of all forms? 

Between the University, the town’s recent population explosion and being an attractive tourist destination, Charlottesville offers a large and diverse audience for artists and musicians too. If you are not able to tap into that audience, you are probably not doing it right.

Favorite place in Cville to… be creative?

My basement.

Favorite place in Cville to… see art?

IX Art Park.

Favorite place in Cville to… grab a bite?

Blue Moon Diner.

Favorite place in Cville to… get a drink?

Champion Brewing Company.

Any other Cville favorites?

Melody Supreme and Low Records – support your local record stores, people!

Lastly… Describe yourself in 10 words or less.

I love music more than talking about myself. Can I do a local music playlist instead?