Boy waifs and androgynous dreamers have long captivated fashion photographer Toyin Ibidapo. After years of recording her subjects from her West London home she’s finally created a mesmerizing scrapbook of her poetic portraits. Cult of Boys is an adoring tribute to the raw vulnerability of youth.
Twin spoke to Toyin about her life’s work…
When did you start taking photos?
I started when I was 18 or 19, I started by doing photograms which was fun. Still at this time I hadn’t any particular calling, it was just something I enjoyed along with all the other students. Then it progressed to shooting my fellow students, friends and family and still I didn’t know I was becoming a photographer as it was a hobby. I was on a general art and design course at Kingsway in clerkenwell 90/92. Then I decided I was better at taking pics and got into Bournemouth.
Are you self-taught or did you study photography?
I am self taught, but I also studied at Bournemouth and Poole College Of Art And Design 92/94. I realize it’s the eye which is most important…well for me it is as I cant speak for anyone else.
When did you start shooting fashion photography?
I came into the fashion industry in 97 and tested until my portfolio was nice and juicy. I got my first break shooting for ” The Face “ back in 98.
When did you first start photographing adolescent boys?
I guess since my student days. I had a few muses even back then, we were all students but on different courses. But if you mean the youth of the “skinny white boy ” a.k.a “The Cult Of…” More seriously when I came into the fashion industry from 97. But I was mostly shooting girls and just the random boy here and there in the beginning. I really got it going in 99.
Aesthetically what kind of boys inspire you and why?
It’s the ones whose presence seem to go beyond just being beautiful looking and you can’t help but react to something in their personality. Maybe it’s shyness or someone who has an interesting state of mind. Yes those that inspire me must have the thing that makes you want to stare at them. They have invisible pull.
How do you cast your subjects – are they models or do you scout them yourself?
Mainly the majority are models and one or two of them have introduced me to faces they think I’d like to shoot. I prefer to meet them face to face before booking if possible so they can see what I’m about and visa versa.
What’s been the response to your work over the years?
The general response has been “when are you gonna get that bloody book out!” Lol. I would say more but my head might start to swell.
How long have you wanted to put together the Cult of Boys?
It began in 99. It was a goal I’d given myself, I didn’t stop shooting it till 09, then I had to work on the dummy, which I’d started since 08 and yes it was a head fuck and yes it took me ages.
What other photographers and artists do you admire?
Any photographer whose image makes me want to look at it just a little bit too long gets my seal of approval no matter what the technique. Paul Outerbridge, Helmut Newton, Avedon, Will Mcbride, Bill Henson, Mary Ellen Mark, Michael Sanders, David Vasiljevic,Gregory Crewdson, Tim Walker.
Writer and Poet Maya Angelou – more people need to know about her. She’s just so inspiring. Ben Whishaw, when I first saw Perfume I was totally inspired by his performance, knocked the socks off me. Sally Man, writer Charlie Kaufman – boy I’d like to pick his brain, such an original. Him and Tim Burton. Bruce Lee, Frida Kahlo for her body to be in that much pain and still to paint – makes me love her all the more.
Then there’s this beautiful man called Simon he gets me to try and go beyond a bit like David Lynch. I admire anyone that makes me think. I deeply admire anyone in adversity because it’s only a matter of time until they claw their way back up if they want. There are many many more.
Who is your current muse?
I have no current muses just my old skool Daniel Tighe. He’ll always be my muse as I know him best. As he dos me. I still love Finnian Smith and Chris Tanner, I could still shoot them as It feels a bit unfinished. New muses…that’s yet to come. I’ve not been looking for a while now, plus it takes a lot to pull me in.
What’s next up for you?
Cult of Boys by Toyin Ibidapo with a foreword by Tim Walker is published by teNeues in September 2011.