Publishing a new body of work by photographer Harley Weir, Baron’s latest issue Function explores the conflicting messages we’re exposed to surrounding the “purpose” of the female body. The brazen set of fashion and documentary images, art directed by Jamie Reid, present sexual desire and reproduction alongside one another – for example showing the female nipple as both an erogenous zone and a feeding station, and, in turn, how it simultaneously causes desire and disgust. These are curated in the book to examine human biology and how it’s represented in society.
The series is highly personal to Harley, Jamie explains to It’s Nice That, with many of its subjects including childhood friends alongside long-time collaborators such as models Jess Maybury and Lily Newmark (who features as Mary and Child); and had been shot over a long time period, so he felt it important to be sensitive about his input. “The content was so vast, it was very much about editing,” he says of his process, “the context of the images and the sequencing and pacing being the main focus. It’s image-led, so the typography is more transparent and practical. Lots of what has fed the imagery in the magazine grew from websites, blogs, forums and lo-fi emails, so the type is basic, as a nod to that.
“It’s about the use of white space, as opposed to anything too graphic. We also explored rationales behind editing, such as story graphs and how these are reminiscent to heartbeat graphs, the tension and climax being a heartbeat.”
As such, in the book, stylist Camille Bidault-Waddington appears in a diptych beside her son Albert Cocker, in a set evoking Christian iconography. One of Harley’s childhood friends appears in a series of self-portraits depicting his experimentation with womanhood through crossdressing, published alongside private emails to his lover. The images are a mixture of candid and staged shots, close-crops and wider angle framings. “I find Harley’s approach and taste so inventive and fluid,” Jamie says, “it feels like a very free-form way of working.” This came through in the format of the book, telling a series of stories that collectively question the media images to which we’ve become so acclimatised.
When it came to its physical form, a paper magazine didn’t feel special enough, Jamie says, and having worked with Harley on many a publication before they were both keen to push it further. The final result is a hefty, hardcover art book closely inspired by the format and production value of Japanese photography books, elevating the content even higher.
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