Barbara Bosworth: Sun Light Moon Shadow at the Cleveland Museum of Art Explores Light in Alignment with Total Solar Eclipse

Barbara Bosworth (American, b. 1953), Moon Setting into Fog Bank over Cape Cod Bay, Morning of the Total Lunar Eclipse, 2007, inkjet print, 142.2 X 177.8 centimeters, printed 2023. Courtesy of the artist. © Barbara Bosworth.

“If we opened people up, we’d find landscapes.” This quote by director Agnès Varda refers to the connectedness between people and place. Barbara Bosworth’s landscape photographs acknowledge this bond between humans and the natural world that often goes unnoticed. Timed to coincide with the total solar eclipse visible in Cleveland in April 2024, Sun Light Moon Shadow explores Bosworth’s photographs of light—from eclipses, sunrises, and sunsets to the luminescent glow of fireflies and a flashlight. When Bosworth was a child growing up in Northeast Ohio, she would go on nighttime walks with her father, and they would look up at the sky. This practice became a lifelong passion and inspired the photographs in the exhibition. Nine monumental color images of the sky and heavenly bodies are joined by six intimately scaled black-and-white scenes of life and light on the earth. Seen together, they suggest how we endow astronomical phenomena with personal meaning. To preview the exhibition, we interviewed photographer Barbara Bosworth.

Barbara Bosworth with her 8×10 camera. Photo courtesy of Emily Sheffer.

Exhibiting work at the Cleveland Museum of Art must be a sort of homecoming for you. Tell us about your connection to Northeast Ohio and specifically to Cleveland.

I was born in Cleveland in 1953. My great-grandfather owned Bosworth Hardware on Euclid Avenue, which was then passed down to my father. He worked there until his retirement, serving the community for close to five decades. While my love of nature was shaped by my backyard woods and streams in Novelty, my love of art and science was shaped by the museums of Cleveland, including art classes at the Cleveland Museum of Art. I’m thrilled to return to the place that was so formative to my experience and imagination.

Your photographs fill me with a sense of wonder. They read equal parts editorial and documentarian. What led you to developing this distinct personal style of landscape photography?

Landscape studies have a long and storied history within photography. When I was first falling in love with the medium, I was inspired by Ansel Adams. He is considered a forefather of American landscape photography, with his sweeping vistas of the West. Later, I learned of more poetic looks at landscape, including those of photographers like Josef Sudek. As I continued shaping my work, I became interested in the human-scale stories that play out in our natural world. I began to show a more personal connection to the landscape.

What draws you to large-format photography as a medium?

I consider photography a “long look.” My camera is called an 8×10 because it holds an 8-by-10-inch piece of film. The equipment and camera are heavy and require me to slow down and pay attention. This measured, steady movement translates well to my personality and how I enjoy making photographs. I also hope it comes through visually in the image, allowing the details produced by the large piece of film to encourage viewers to slow down and find themselves lost in a blade of grass or the leaves on an old apple tree.

What does light mean to you in the context of this exhibition?

Light is everything in photography; the word itself translates to “drawing with light.” Photographing astronomical bodies especially fascinates me. The light has to travel such an immense, unfathomable distance to land on my film.

Wide open spaces are a reoccurring motif in your work. The landscapes themselves express an emotional resonance. How do you maintain such a strong bond to the natural world?

I always come back to my childhood in Novelty. My English grandfather, a painter, would go on long “rambles” through the woods, with my siblings and I following him. He would point out a mushroom here, a forest wildflower there. My father would take walks at night with a flashlight and look at the sky full of stars. It’s that kind of childhood wonder that has stayed with me. Though my work comes from a personal place, I hope that viewers find a similar emotional resonance.

What inspired your exploration of astronomical phenomena and how does it feel to have this work displayed during the total eclipse?

Photography and astronomy are so linked through their use of optics and observation of light. For several years, I worked in the Rare Books Library at Cornell University.It was there that I had the chance to see books by Galileo Galilei. His early drawings of the stars, moon, and sun captured my imagination. I hope the timing of this exhibition during the total solar eclipse on April 8 will inspire viewers to see the eclipse for themselves. Cleveland is in the center of the path of totality!

Barbara Bosworth: Sun Light Moon Shadow is on view through June 30. Join us for a free lecture with the artist, “Barbara Bosworth: Landscape Stories,” at 2 pm on Saturday, March 2, in the CMA’s Gartner Auditorium. For more information, visit

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