Interview with Poem Baker

Today we want introduce you a new talented London‐based photographer, Poem Baker, who recently has published an interesting photographic series entitled “Hymns from the bedroom” .

THE PINK SNOUT:  Hi Poem, first of all thanks for giving us your time for this interview. could you tell us a bit about yourself, your personality and your background?
POEM BAKER: Well i grew up in a small industrial town in Suffolk , which was really bleak ,if you think of Martin Parrs last resort , that was pretty much what it was like , all my school friends ended up working in factories or having kids at 16 .
So i broke away as early as i could , i wanted to chase the bright lights and loud music ,there was a little bohemian character inside of me wanting to break out .
So initially i came to London to pursue a career in theater and performance art , i did that for sometime but got exhausted with the work always being sporadic and that’s when i picked up a camera and enrolled in a photography class at London College of Communication. That was about 5 yrs ago now , from that day on i haven’t had a camera out of my hands !

TPS: You always seemed to be interested in Photography. What attracted you to it and how did you even start working as a photographer? is this your main activity? What inspires you or who were the first artists that inspired you?
PB: What i love about photography is that i can always be working on a personal project , any hour , day or night i can pick up my camera and go somewhere with it .
My inspirations come from all types of artists , Andy Warhol , Lucian freud , Gilbert and George , Tracy Emin but as for photographers i’m quite drawn to unsung heroes , people like Francesca Woodsman , Corinne Day , James Ravilious , if my work when I’m dead and gone ends up somewhere between those names I’ll be happy!

TPS: We have been very impressive by your intimate series called “Hymns from the bedroom”. How did you find the people for your photos and how do you convince them to be featured in this project? They looked so comfortable with your camera. How do you approach people to take their intimacy?
PB: Hymns from the bedroom is a personal journal of my friends and people iv’e encountered whilst wandering around London, most of them are creative twenty somethings on the threshold of their dreams and ambitions, ranging from performance artists , musicians ,actors , fashion designers to strippers , transvestites and those that live on the fringes of society
I think i have a good eye for finding individuals that have something extraordinary about them , something that can capture your attention an almost immediately pull you in , but for this particular project i was drawn to people that don’t conform to society’s expectations of gender.
i was hoping that maybe through my camera lens i could bring that world closer to others who are unfamiliar with it, to show them how captivating it can be and give my subjects a voice to challenge the constraints of conformity .
Trust and intimacy is at the core of this project , which is why i spend a lot of time with my subjects , and get them to open up and and talk about themselves .
I don’t consider myself to be a shy photographer , i’m honest and open about what i want to achieve , i think this is what possibly puts my subjects at ease and that’s how i manage to arrive at these intimate portraits .
when i’m behind the camera i’m indifferent to whether people choose
to pose with or without their clothes on.
i leave this decision up to them, letting them set the limits of their own vulnerability.

TPS: How many shot have you done and how long it took to complete your project or when did you decide to end it? Are you still in touch with any of the people you photographed?
PB: This project started in 2010 , and this really is just the beginnings of a book for me , my long term plan is to publish Hymns from the Bedroom , also what you see on my website is just half of what i have in my vault of portraits from this project .
I consider this to be my personal journal and since its an ongoing one, i plan to continue shooting this way and with the same people in the future.
i also hope it can serve as a personal photo album for those that let me photograph them , a photo album at which they can all look reflectively at , and at a later point in their future they will be able to recall their dreams and endeavors from days of their youth.

TPS: Themes of gender, sexuality, relationships and family is making a strong appearance in this work. What made you focus on it?
PB: Quite simply these are the themes that distinctly define us & the dynamics of them frequently change all the time too !
I thought it was important to photograph my subjects especially those that identify with being gay or queer with their family , i wanted to show acceptance , that’s important when your struggling to figure yourself out.

TPS: Shooting in black and white is a constant feature in your images. Can you please explain the reason behind this choice? What kind of camera do you use most?
PB: I think with black and white you can hide a multitude of technical sins , which is just as well as i don’t have any big lighting theatrical set ups , its just me, my canon 5D , one lens and a flash gun , it all fits into my ruck sack !
I make my shoots short and sweet , i tend to shoot between 15 to 40 frames tops , i actually talk to people more than i photograph them , that way I think you can put them at ease and save yourself at least about 30 frames !

TPS: How do you resonate with the term queer?
PB: I’m totally cool with it , i think the new generation of youths are claiming the word back.
Its not a specific as words like gay and lesbian , it doesn’t tell you peoples gender or the gender of their partner, which i think is why people are using it freely and positively!

TPS: How do you come up with ideas for your projects and what projects are you working on?
PB: Actually , i’m now in the midst of working on a colour project , i think it’s important to challenge myself , so I’m photographing some club kids , who are part of an all female tribe called Haus of Sequana , their totally fascinating , they dress like clowns but with a edgy twist , they make their own clothes , as well as make performance art videos and run a hair salon from a psychedelic trailer salon!
And i’m also about to put a collection of portraits together of female vicars !

Thanks Poem for your kind collaboration

Check out more artworks from Poem Baker here