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Change Maker: Barbara Chandler

Barbara Chandler, Photo: ©Kathy Schicker

Journalist, photographer and all-round legend in the world of design, Barbara Chandler has been penning articles on furniture, decoration, interiors and more for over 35 years. A former-furnishing editor at Ideal Home magazine, and then contributor as a freelance to many national titles, she has held the position of design editor on the Evening Standard’s Homes & Property insert for more than two decades. Her photography has been widely exhibited, and in 2011 a collection of her images was published as a book, ’Love London’, testament to her reputation as the sharpest eye in the UK capital.

DE: What motivates you to do what you do?

Well, my work splits into two, journalism and photography. For writing, I think the start is a natural curiosity— I just love finding out about things.

Writing up the results— and dovetailing research, interviews, and observations— is a challenge, but I must have an in-built love of writing because I can work for hours at my computer, no problem.

Then there is the desire to share. It’s thrilling on a Tube train to see someone reading a feature of mine in the London Evening Standard on a Wednesday, when Homes & Property fills the centre of the paper. Recently quite a few of my stories have been flagged up on the cover of the main paper, and that’s a special accolade. I get a big buzz if I’m told there has been a strong take-up for something I’ve written about.

And I get the chance to see so many interesting things. Our capital leads the world in design, and I love telling people about that. We have fabulous shops, super-creative designers, new materials, gorgeous galleries and museums, brill shows, events and festivals. I also report from Paris and Milan; how lovely is that?

As for my photography I am never really sure of the motivation. I just know that when the light’s right, and often when it’s not, I have a compelling urge to get out there with my camera— even if it’s only to our local wood or riverside path. 

In this somewhat old-fashioned genre of ‘street photography’— or happenstance— you have to take loads of pictures, chancing your arm over and over. But then every so often comes the wonder of something special. Composition and emotion in an image that you didn’t plan or orchestrate, but were able to capture and record. A magic moment that really happened.

Barbara Chandler, Photo: ©Kathy Schicker
Barbara Chandler, Photo: ©Kathy Schicker

DE: Is there a landmark moment in your career that really shifted the way you see the world?

Yes, when I read ‘Design for the Real World’ by Victor Papanek in the early-70s, the scales fell off my eyes and I became aware that consumer journalism was really very shallow. I made an attempt to change careers, but was bringing up two children on my own, and got sucked back in.

Recently, I was privileged to see the Vitra Museum’s retrospective, Victor Papanek: The Politics of Design— still my hero. Now at least there is a chance to champion sustainability, new materials, and design for good.

DE: Who inspires you?

Being somewhat elderly myself, I feel inspired and encouraged by the older people in the design world who just keep going with undiminished creativity. Kenneth Grange, Rosita Missoni, Zandra Rhodes, Terence Conran, Richard Rogers.


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