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Baron: The Death Book

Work / Publication

Baron launches the Death Book examining connections between sex and death

Matthew Holroyd founded Baron in 2012. Since then, the printing press has expanded into a creative agency and publication under the same title along with a sister magazine Baroness. The concept of Baron stems from Matthew’s own experiences as a gay man and his personal issues with how sex and sexuality are communicated through visual culture.

Baron’s publications offer a different perspective on fashion photography. While clothing, fashion and editorial advertising deeply influence the mainstream conception of “what is sexy”, there are also many controversies surrounding body image and representation within the fashion industry that are explicitly seen in Baron’s publications. Matthew tells It’s Nice That how “the fashion industry should be celebrated for being one of the only industries where gay men and women are at the top”. The co-founder goes onto state that “it took the art world until the eighties to start showing female artists in art museums, however this has not been the case for female designers and fashion collectives” in this country. Matthew further asserts that “while Yves Saint Laurent was celebrated as an icon in Paris, gay men in the UK were being hung and arrested”. Resultantly, Baron celebrates all aspects of sexuality in a non-judgemental light, respectfully documenting the subjective meanings of what pleasure means to different people.

The Death Book captures ideas of sexuality and humanity from Matthew’s unique perspective intertwining fashion, photography and print design. The book is a collaboration with Edith Bergfors who contributes her own experiences of photography as a means of catharsis which helped her therapeutically process her mother’s death in 2011. Edith explains, “I found it difficult to speak to people about death. Things that I found interesting, peculiar and sometimes even humorous about the whole process of death in general, as well as my own grieving process”, which is sensitively explored throughout the Death Book.

Matthew was one of the few people Edith could confide in as a long-time collaborator and friend. The project grew naturally, documenting a wide gamut of the creative duo’s thoughts around the subject, starting with a set of photographs Edith took around the time of her mother’s death. “I photographed a lot of things but subconsciously never photographed her”, says Edith. The images comment on “how the objects in the photos become distraction mechanisms”, loaded with emotional associations. As the project naturally progressed, Edith’s archive work combined with new shoots that collaborate with other contributors to create the diverse publication that explores the multifaceted notion of death.

The book opens with a poem by the artist Dallas Seitz and also includes a letter to the serial killer Danny Rolling from the musician Merle Allin of the Murder Junkies. Apart from these pieces, the rest of the book is dedicated to full bleed images that embody a research document. There is no imposed narrative across the book so the viewer can interpret the contents for themselves; reflecting Matthew’s interest in the connections between sex and death.

Additionally, Edith’s input examines “depictions of hell throughout the ages and ideas of preserving one’s self-image post-mortem”. Such images that we regard for our self-conservation after life have become so familiar to us in a hospital or hospice context but are little explored in other contemporary art forms. Edith’s other interests that inform the book include “sexually charged mythical creatures” which have been artfully designed and put together into the designed publication by Barons in-house designer Silvia Bonii. The Death Book is art directed by Matthew and Edith as well as Anna Bergfors who has skilfully worked on album covers for the likes of Depeche Mode and Prodigy.

The Death Book is full of nuanced subject matter that inspects the uncomfortable subject matter of death and sex and documented through the art of photography. Despite its bold title, the Death Book is a visual feast, enhanced by Matthew and Edith’s rich art direction and high quality print.

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