A work of photography by Poem Baker
“I’m a self-‐taught documentary photographer who shoots on instinct. since picking up a camera about five years ago, I’ve been enthralled by the transformative nature of portraiture in its power to both mask and lay bare the human persona. Hymns from the bedroom is a personal journal of friends and people I’ve encountered while wandering around London for inspiration. Most of whom are creative twenty-‐something’s on the threshold of their dreams and ambitions, ranging from performance artists, musicians, actors and fashion designers to strippers, transvestites and those who live on the fringes of society. Each of my documentations implicitly tells a story about its subject and his or her creative endeavors in life, whether actual or aspirational. These candid, intimate and sometimes subversive portraits also explore related themes of gender, sexuality, relationships and family, particularly in a sub-cultural context. one of the main catalysts for developing this series of portraits, and the living thread that runs throughout this work, are the relationships I develop with my subjects. I photograph these people again and again, noticing and capturing subtle nuances in their characters, which naturally seep through into the pictures and deepen my ongoing perspective. Over time, some of my subjects begin to feel differently about how we approach making a picture together, and it can influence the outcomes unexpectedly. This intuitive, exploratory way of working aids the process of capturing authentic, uninhibited and often spontaneous moments in time. The outcome of which, as a whole, is a visual stream of consciousness documenting individuals on their creative journey; giving them a voice through imagery as they seek to express and define themselves while inevitably challenging the constraints of conformity. “
How did you develop an interest in photography?
I worked in theatre for a number of years , but became exhausted by the work being sporadic and feeling creative and not being able to act upon it , because of a lack of funding!
So thats when I started looking for other ways of being pro actively inventive
In 2010 is when I first picked up a camera and started playing Around making images …
It felt amazing , I could pick it up any time of the day or night , and be creative .
The first project I ever did was a street photography series of photos on Brick Lane , it taught me how to frame , to not be afraid to approach people and to keep committed to something … I spent every single Sunday for a year walking up and down brick lane for about 7 hours a time learning how to use my camera!
Why did you shoot your subjects in their bedroom?
I always shoot people in their own surroundings and in their homes as it is a comfortable and familiar location for the subject and this is what is central to hymns from the bedroom. If you take a closer look at some of the portraits you can see a bigger picture, the everyday items, articles of clothing scattered about on the floor, pictures pinned on the wall, it’s a further insight into the realm of my subjects and there is no other way but to photograph them from within that world.
What artists inspire you?
My inspirations come from all types of artists , I love Tracy Emin , Andy Warhol ,and Lucian Freud .
As for photographers , I have soft spot for unsung heroes , people like Francesca Woodsman , James Ravilious , Corinne Day , and Vivian Maier.
I collect photography books too , I love Robbert Mapplethorpes the black book , Larry Clarke’s tulsa , Bruce Gilden’s coney island , and Nan Goldin’s the devils playground
What do you set out to achieve , if anything with your work?
Well I think I have a good eye for finding individuals that have something extraordinary about them , something that can capture your attention immediately.
For example for hymns from the bedroom , for that particular project I was drawn to people that don’t conform to societies expectations of gender .
I was hoping through my camera I could bring that world closer to others who are unfamiliar with it , to show how captivating it can be and to give my subjects a voice to challenge the constrains of conformity .
What projects are you working on right now?
Actually , I’m now in the midst of working on a number of colour projects , that’s important to me at the moment , I think it’s good practice to challenge yourself & try and avoid repeating yourself , I still need to work on my colour pallet – so I’m photographing club kids , there another project on goths , and I’ve just completed another series of portraits on a performance art dance company called House of Health that perform on the underground club scene.