Jamie Morgan and Ib Kamara pay homage to Barry Kamen in a shoot featuring Paris’s African club kids – here they discuss this story, Barry’s legacy and Buffalo’s future
Buffalo. If you haven’t heard of it, you’ll have felt its reverberations. The trailblazing 1980s collective pioneered many things we now take for granted in fashion: from toying with gender codes and casting non-white models, to mixing tailoring with sportswear and referencing styles seen on the street and in the clubs, they did it first and they did it best. One of the group’s key members was Barry Kamen, who modelled in many of their shoots and, along with his brother Nick, was their muse as well as a stylist in his own right. Also an artist, Kamen continued to channel the spirit of Buffalo into his work even after the collective itself dissipated.
Kamen passed away last year, at the far-too-premature age of 52. His friend, photographer and fellow Buffalo member Jamie Morgan, wanted to pay tribute to him and teamed up with his last assistant, Ib Kamara, for a shoot featured in the winter 2016 issue of Dazed. “I saw Ibrahim’s end of term project – which was shot in South Africa – (and) I could see it had been inspired by Barry and Buffalo, but also that it was completely new,” describes Morgan of the project’s inception. “It really touched me. I’d been wanting to pay tribute to Barry and thought what better way to do it than with Ib? He would have loved that.” So, in October of last year, he and Kamara headed to Paris where they street-cast and shot a number of African-French young men with a nod to Barry and Buffalo.
This shoot itself took place in Château Rouge, a predominantly black area in the city’s 18th arrondissement and according to Kamara represents a “new Paris”, one where young African men feel liberated enough to express themselves freely. It’s a challenge that’s made tricky by the city’s institutionalised racism and increasing xenophobia – things that Buffalo stood so vehementally against. “To see men, especially African men, feel liberated enough to be photographed in the street in a heel is quite something,” he says. “I’ve got some Senegalese friends here who I’ll see wearing a dress on a night out. But they’ll only do that at night,” says Kamara. “Maybe this story will change something.”
Dresses and heels feature heavily in the styling of this shoot which takes its inspiration from the unique way that Africans have amalgamated Parisian culture with that of their own, incorporating fake Chanel scarves and gold Eiffel Tower earrings into their outfits – with real flair. “These boys have really integrated into Paris and it was great for us to be able to mix Western and African cultures together,” says Kamara. “They’ve taken what they’ve seen in the city, mashed it together with something else and made them stylish,” Kamara continues. Here, Kamara and Morgan share more about this shoot and what it represents, and discuss the legacy of Barry and the future of Buffalo.
Can you tell me about the boys you shot?
Ib Kamara: We had a friend in Paris, Luka, who helped us. We found them on the street and on the subway, in the gay clubs and strip clubs. Some of the boys are in the arts, some are at school and one works in a factory – but they were all more than happy to jump on this project and, in a way, free themselves.
Jamie Morgan: I was stunned by how the straight boys would be prepared to get involved. Though sometimes it would be a case of not being able to go and film down (a certain) street because they knew too many people, so we would have to wait a bit. Then some of the gay guys would say ‘Oh, I can't shoot down that street because my mum might see me in those heels’. (laughs) The straight guys and the gay guys both had the cultural pressure of not being seen by their family or their peers, but they loved it and had a lot of fun.
Ib Kamara: We did a lot of fittings with the boys and they loved it, they just wanted more and more. Towards the end, one of the guys sent us a message saying ‘I felt so special’ and it was so sweet.
“I’ve got some Senegalese friends here who I’ll see wearing a dress on a night out. But they’ll only do that at night. Maybe this story will change something” – Ibrahim Kamara
Jamie Morgan: It was lovely to also empower them too, and make them feel special for a day... One of the locations was predominantly Muslim as opposed to black African and we had one of the guys pregnant. This is something that Ibrahim was really into, I’m not quite sure what he was commenting on... (laughs)
Ib Kamara: I was commenting on how people integrate into a society. They have kids who end up becoming respectable people. But the kids don’t understand the struggle their parents went through, so they are more integrated. A pregnant boy symbolises that.
Jamie Morgan: And then we had a guy in a wedding dress as well, and we went to this location and we got out of the van in a busy marketplace and suddenly everybody started looking at us and some guy started shouting at me. It got really hairy and we began to question if we were insulting these people by having a pregnant man in a dress. We wanted to be provocative and get people thinking, but we certainly didn’t want our models being attacked so we got back in the van and went somewhere else.
Ib Kamara: But I think for the most part, people were just interested.
Can we talk about Barry? What did he teach you?
Ib Kamara: Even if Barry put a man in a dress, he’d still be a man, he’d still be sexy. I think that’s what I learnt the most. He also taught me not to rely on the clothing, to create a character and use the clothes to compliment it. He taught me to just be myself, create things that are close to my heart and tell stories that I want to hear.
Jamie Morgan: He taught me that it’s as much about what you leave out as what you put in. I think a lot of stylists think that to do something interesting you have to load it with layers. But you just don’t need to do that. If you get it right, it can be simple and that’s better. His styling approach was similar to Ray’s, in that the styling is to support the image. He never had an ego about it, it was all about getting the best picture. That was the only thing that mattered.
“(Barry) taught me not to rely on the clothing, to create a character and use the clothes to compliment it” – Ibrahim Kamara
For Barry, the image needed to have a reference outside of fashion, something cultural or emotional and he would always bring the most amazing references to a shoot. One time he brought references from Clark Gable to James Dean, and factory workers from the 1800s and 1900s. His referencing was always immaculate. He would never reference another photographer’s images, like most people do now. Like, ‘Oh, let’s reference Mert and Marcus, or Juergen (Teller).’ No, his references had to be authentic.
Ib Kamara: He’d use paintings as a reference too.
Jamie Morgan: Yeah, he went right back to painters. What Barry really brought to the work was his art. He was an artist – a painter and a filmmaker – before he was a stylist.
I spoke to Judy Blame the other day and he said how he thought that Buffalo skipped a generation, but that there’s a new generation now who really ‘get it’. What do you think about that?
Jamie Morgan: I think that’s very accurate, it did skip a generation. I think everyone got carried away with money, glamour and being successful, but now things are getting tougher for everyone. When we did that first story for The Face, it was during tough times. From that place comes creativity.
How would you describe the spirit of Buffalo?
Jamie Morgan: It's like that song, ‘Juicy’ by The Notorious B.I.G.: ‘And if you don’t know, now you know!’ And that’s it. If you carry the spirit with you then you do, and if you don’t you don’t. It’s not for me to judge who does or what it is, and I think that’s why the next generation is a great thing, because they’ve taken that spirit and morphed it into something that works for them. Like this story for example, I would say its attitude is very Buffalo, but its aesthetic isn’t. But if I was to define Buffalo in one word, it’s about being brave. Challenging yourself, challenging the establishment...
“If I was to define Buffalo in one word, it’s about being brave” – Jamie Morgan
Ib Kamara: I think you’re right. We’re doing our own thing. We’re poor as hell but we’re still doing our own thing. I think that’s the spirit of Buffalo – believing in something and persevering with it. It’s telling a story that you want to hear, even if everyone else is doing it differently – and hopefully you’re still able to put some bread on the table!
It’s very punk then.
Jamie Morgan: Well yeah, Buffalo came out of punk. But punk is an attitude, not an editorial – just like Buffalo. In the new issue of Vogue Paris, there’s a story by Emmanuelle Alt, the editor-in-chief, called ‘Buffalo 2016’. Well, uh, no – it’s not. It’s not a fashion shoot. They’re not Buffalo and that’s why they don’t get it.
Hair Virginie P Moreira using Oribe Hair Care and Bumble and bumble., make-up Ammy Drammeh using M.A.C, models Aymeric, Caspi, Clarin- Evans, Erwan, Isaac, Tidian at Tomorrow Is Another Day, Christian, Loïc, Magueye, styling assistant Juanjose Mosuko Nuse, production Brigitte Slama at Handsome Paris, retouching James Colk at My Brother Bob, casting Lukas von der Gracht