About the Photographer
German, b. 1982
Barbara Diener’s series, “Sehnsucht” (2012–14), combines photography’s unique capacity to render the world in high detail with the medium’s ability to reveal complex human stories that lie beneath those surfaces. The project’s title is a German word for an unfulfilled and unattainable desire. With no English equivalent, it describes “one of life’s longings, for someone or something, that cannot be fully defined and will not be realized.” The title encapsulates Diener’s experience as a German immigrant who moved to the United States in early adulthood. Initially motivated by her longing for rootedness and the comfort of home, she began photographing in rural towns throughout Illinois that reminded her of her hometown in Germany. Those first pictures spurred Diener’s long-term photographic investigation of the complex meaning of “home” and the human need to feel deeply connected to a particular place. Her work is at once an examination of her own complicated identity and a document of the communities she encounters as she travels and photographs. Diener’s longing for the incomparable comfort of a place she can no longer access, only recollect, informs her understanding of a rural way of life found here in the United States, the spiritual and emotional undercurrents of which resonate in her photographs.
Diener completed her BFA in Photography from the California College of the Arts (2006) and her MFA in Photography from Columbia College Chicago (2013). She has been included in exhibitions at the California College of the Arts, Oakland, CA (2006); Woman Made Gallery; Chicago, IL (2009); Pingyao Photo Festival, China (2012); and the Griffin Museum of Photography, Winchester, MA, (2013); among others.