Following on from tomes dedicated to the somewhat steamy work of Harley Weir and Tyrone Lebon, the sixth edition of Baron (brought to you by the same team that publishes Baron Magazine) plunges readers into the eerie, but erotically charged work of photographer Petra Collins. Shot over a year, the book is Petra’s first foray into self-portraiture, using hyper-realistic silicon body casts by artist Sarah Sitkin to create narratives of adolescent desire and small town weirdness.
The book has been designed by Sandra Leko, the art director behind sustainable fashion magazine More or Less, who collaborated closely with Petra to bring the book into fruition. “What appeals to me most about Petra’s work is her ability to portray her subjects in these otherworldly realities with such ease,” Sandra tell It’s Nice That. “I love odd and slightly unsettling images in general and it amuses me to see other people’s reactions to these. I usually find the more ‘unsettling’ images from the book quite LOL, so they are probably my favourite – especially the ones where the viewer can’t quite make out what they are looking at.”
In terms of unsettling images – there are many. In one shot, dismembered feet in a pair of kitten heels sit atop a high school desk, while in another, a pair of identikit masked blondes clutch each other in their underwear while a hula hoop burns in the background, filling a teenage bedroom with atmospheric smoke. There’s a good helping of the erotic – minimal clothes, bondage and considerable grinding – but the childhood setting (largely shot around Petra’s hometown of Toronto) and the use of prosthetics, not to mention the odd chainsaw, make being turned on pretty confusing.
Featuring inset images with cutely coloured borders, the layout has something of the feel of an 80s kids annual about it. But the graphic style and typography, Sandra explains, was inspired by magazines dedicated to Japanese Kinbaku, a BDSM practice of tying intricate restraining knots. “Kinbaku magazines were very much the starting point that then allowed me to dig deeper and look at the Kinbaku film posters and other publications from the 80s and 90s,” says Sandra, whose first job at IDEA books has given her a huge reference bank of vintage publications and editorial approaches. “This research also lead me to explore Japanese album artwork from the same era. I love the use of the strong colours and the busyness of the layouts and wanted to see how I could apply that to this book.”
The structure of book itself moves though Petra’s different set-ups, from body parts in the snow, to the girls in the bedroom, the dancer, the bride and the classroom. Sandra adds, “I was aiming to create an eerie narrative between all of these elements, so that the book would feel like an odd story that you can’t quite figure out, but by turning each page you unveil another little part of the puzzle.”