Light Experiments


by Madeleine Barnes

A photographic zine of light and shadow.

handpulled cover
limited edition of 200

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Madeleine Barnes is a writer and visual artist from Pittsburgh, PA living in Brooklyn. She is the recipient of a John Woods Scholarship to study poetry in the Czech Republic, a New York State Summer Writers Institute Fellowship, two Academy of American Poets prizes, and the Princeton Poetry Prize. She earned an MFA in Creative Writing from New York University in 2016. Her artwork has appeared on the covers of Washington Square ReviewBOXCAR Poetry Review, and Cimarron Review, and in shows at The Miller Gallery, BOOM Concepts, and WORK Gallery. You can find her poetry in places like Pleiades, Fields, YEW Journal, The Scores, Jai-Alai Magazine, Blue Lyra Review, and The Rattling Wall (by Narrow Books). She serves as Poetry Editor at Cordella Magazine, a publication that showcases the work of women-identified and non-binary writers and artists. |



The photographs in Light Experiments focus on bodily abstractions and the feeling of being estranged from oneself, one’s surroundings, and even one’s sense of identity. They are layered explorations of people and spaces that feel both familiar and unfamiliar to me. The photographs reflect the way visual, emotional, and physical moments are superimposed, using visual intersections to create a single image that becomes almost otherworldly. I experimented with light using the camera as my medium, seeking to evoke the same energy and sensations that language-based poetry might.

In A Poet’s Glossary, Edward Hirsch tells us that “the word ‘stanza’ means ‘room’ in Italian.—‘a station,’ ‘a stopping place,’—and each stanza in a poem is like a room in a house, a lyric dwelling place.” I approached the nocturnal settings of these photographs as dwelling places, poetic atmospheres haunted and connected by a fleeting pulse of light, dream worlds and departures toward the unknown. Hirsch writes, “Each stanza has its own distinctive features, its own music, and its own internal history that informs and haunts later usage.” Using the materials I had—matches, sparklers, moonlight, sequins, timers, apertures, flash, motion, layers, levels, fabric, and of course, my camera—I sought to bring this internal history to the surface of the photograph. This photographic chapbook has no linear narrative, and constructs an experience that will be different for every viewer. I conceived of Light Experiments as an adventure—a dislocating contemplation that aims to bend genre by challenging ideas surrounding what it means to write poetry.


"Light Experiments is an extraordinary work of art—stunning, eerie, and powerfully evocative. Madeleine Barnes is a singular talent.” —Deborah Landau

Light Experiments joins the structure of the book, as a journey in time, with the photograph, as a record of light, to illuminate the mysteries of the human condition.” —Barbara Henry, Proprietor, Harsimus Press; Master Printer, Center for Book Arts 

“Given that nothing can travel faster than light, these arresting images are also meditations on time, full of beauty and disquiet, full of stories not yet fully illuminated but discovered and expressed in Madeleine Barnes’s radiant poetic intuition.” —Catherine Barnett