Anna & Amir Barzin

Chapel Hill, NC

Collector and commercial photographer Anna Barzin has almost convinced herself that she’s not a real artist, but we have discriminating evidence to the contrary. To start, the way she captures light in her portrait work is beyond masterful. And from the ‘takes one to appreciate one’ category, in her enthusiasm for the work of a broad range of artists — from Joan Miró to Sally Mann to Kehinde Wiley — we can see the fruits of a university-level arts education and a well-trained eye.

It’s a combo that’s proving to be superlatively advantageous in choosing art for the lovely Chapel Hill home she shares with her husband Amir, a family medicine doctor, and her beautiful daughter, Ruth. From their first ‘big deal’ acquisition, a William McClure original, to a recent purchase from Chapel Hill artist Stacy Lynn Waddell, who works with branding irons, gold leaf and laser technology — their zest for collecting is palpable. The couple credits their involvement with the Ackland Art Museum at UNC for inspiring them to begin investing in the local arts community. “Buying art doesn't always mean spending lots of money,” explains Anna. “We have pieces we bought for $10 at a flea market that are just as powerful and meaningful in our home as pieces from major artists.”


“As we grow as collectors, we’re realizing that we are connected to the art we like to look at, but beyond that, we're inspired by the stories behind the pieces just as much.”

Tell us about an artist you find exceptionally inspiring.

“One of our favorite artists in the world is Kehinde Wiley. I was introduced
to Kehinde in college and have been totally entranced since then. His reimagined old master paintings with black protagonists are unbelievably powerful — the detail in the brushstrokes, the colors, and the sheer magnitude of these pieces are life changing.” 

Beyond decoration, what impact does art have on your home?

“Art brings a home to life. It's amazing to be able to consume a piece of art daily that the artist actually touched, actually held and actually brought to life.” 

What comes first: the art or the spot you want to fill?

“We generally buy art we like instead of buying pieces for certain rooms or certain walls. I've always felt that we should buy art because we love it, we can't stop thinking about it and we want to be around it all day! We buy the pieces we like and end up finding a spot for them in our home eventually.”

Tell us about one of your most prized pieces.

“I treasure a photograph by Pulitzer Prize-nominated photographer, Alyssa Banta, that we are lucky to have in our home. Alyssa was a mentor to me when I was living in Texas and trying to give photography a go as a career. I'd spend hours helping Alyssa catalog her work, scan negatives, frame pieces, work on books, all the things a good photo assistant does! I had ALWAYS been drawn to one image she captured on assignment at a monastery in Thailand. The image shows two young boys from the monastery who have wandered into the fields with their horses. The light in the clearing and how it illuminates these boys in this private moment always struck me. It's truly an enchanting image. When Amir and I got married, I asked Alyssa if she'd consider gifting us this print. It will always be a treasured piece because of how beautiful it is, but also [because of] the relationship I have with the artist.”