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Toyin Ibidapo's Cult of Boys

The London-based photographer and Dazed collaborator on her first ever book

Toyin Ibidapo is known for fashion editorials with Dazed fashion editors like Nicola Formichetti, Bryan McMahon and Robbie Spencer, as well as films for Kim Jones, Replay and SHOWstudio. But while working with these stylists, Toyin also shot a couple of rolls for herself, intended to be published as a book project one day. At one occasion, Nicola even gave her a bag of jeans he no longer needed to use for her ongoing project. This year, she finally published the compilation of her scrap books as her first photo book, with a foreword by her friend, Tim Walker. We spoke to Toyin about 'Cult of Boys' and beauty of boys...

Dazed Digital: What type of boys do you like?
Toyin Ibidapo: 
Firstly I will say all beauty is subjective to personal taste. The type of face that I'm automatically inspired by is telling eyes, eyes that can't lie or be fake. I respond to their silence, the shy or naturally quiet keep me interested, that's not to say that the more vocal or comfortable in their own skin don't do it for me too... They all do, but somehow the ones who seem to have a haunting quality hold certain unobtainable secrets that you want to read. They give so much away through their silent emotion, this makes them all the more seductive. They could have long hair, short hair or facial hair, it doesn't really matter. What mattered to me was their presence... And it's an amazing feeling to capture them on film, then they can haunt you forever frozen in time. I liked the way they leaked venerability so effortlessly. It's so beautiful to watch it happening in front of your eyes.

DD: You are famous for undressing models, which is sometimes taken as you're against fashion photography. Do you simply prefer to photograph naked boys?
Toyin Ibidapo: 
It's not that I prefer them naked... Okay, yes I do! It's simply because when you strip them down there really is nowhere for them to hide and it keeps the image more pure, clothes can give you character to hide behind... plus pale milky skin is gorgeous but I do like clothes too! 

DD: Why did you name this project and the book as Cult of Boys?
Toyin Ibidapo: 
It's called 'Cult of Boys' simply because anytime you do something surrounding a small group of whatever your thing may be, you create some sort of collective, a Cult to me is an exclusive club of some sort, mine happened to be boys who are skinny, mostly white and androgynous. I just love the title. It's all about devotion.

DD: Please tell us about the entire book.
Toyin Ibidapo: 
It's a very organic process, natural to my personality, I'd always made some sort of book since my student days. It was a way of having my own home made portfolio and keep a record of what I'd done in that year, when it came to entering the fashion arena I didn't really change my habit, but this time I was thinking a bit differently... After I'd set my goal of deciding to photograph 100 andro boys, I'd bought a 10x8 black book which I began to fill with the faces I'd shot so far, both boys and girls. This book became a diary of images and thoughts, also I got some of the boys to write and draw stuff in it too...

Seeing as it was about them why not get them involved. Everyone whose worked with me have seen most of my books, as they float about in my room but when it came to turning it into a project that would one day be published, I had to make an entire new book as the original is small and most of the writing is private to a certain extent... Also how would I be able to fit 6x4 images over many pages, plus I had no intention of publishing the original as it belongs to me and only me. 

DD: How was the process of making the book?
Toyin Ibidapo: 
The process of making the actual dummy was a long and arduous one suddenly I found it hard to concentrate it felt like being back at school! I did everything to avoid doing it, bunking off seemed a good idea, anything other than just sitting there trying to decide which images to use, of which there are so many. I wanted it to have the same energy of my two original cult scrapbooks, scrapbook three (the dummy) had arrived. I do remember starting it in mid summer 2008 I worked on it right up to January 2011. In the summer of 2009 I took a large dinning table outside across the road from my house watching all my neighbors walking by as I worked and listened to Kate Bush very loudly. I knew they were thinking "what the hell is she up too?".

I was dangerous and armed with pritt stick and spray mount. It was rather funny as I'd show them random images... Whether they enjoyed it or not... That's where beauty is in the eye of the beholder. Art and taste is a personal thing, and I'm only trying to please myself as it was they "the beautiful ones" who inspired me, and my book is a homage to everyone whose in it and for anyone who appreciates this kind of beauty too. It's a scrapbook because it's personal to me... Most creatives have some form of scrapbook only it's up to you what you choose to put in it.

DD: Please tell us more about poets and texts in the book.
Toyin Ibidapo: 
Everyone is inspired by someone and I guess most people who either keep diaries or scrapbooks have quotes from poets, writers, musicians and such. I'm in a position to express my gratitude and give them a little mention and maybe they can have the same effect on anyone else who is curious about them, inspiration comes in many forms, they were just some I chose to list forever. Bruce Lee was really major for me, just his sheer determination and discipline was so sublime. He's a well deserved icon. Others I came across through friends and family or just surfing the net. 

DD: How do you define both reportage and fashion photography?
Toyin Ibidapo: 
To define fashion and reportage, hmmm... I guess I can't have one without the other seeing as I'm really a portrait photographer so maybe that's where the more human aspect might be coming from. But for now the lines are only blurred when there's the element of the real who just happen to be wearing a fashion garment. 

DD: What is photography for you?
Toyin Ibidapo: 
To me photography is a way of recording some of the memories you have chosen to bare witness to in your life time and hopefully some will stick around long after we've gone.

DD: Any future plans?
Toyin Ibidapo: 
I will be having my first exhibition at DOORS SHOWCASE (20 Rivington Street London EC2A 3DU) from 23rd Feb to 24th March 2012. 

© Cult of Boys by Toyin Ibidapo, published by teNeues. Photo © 2011 Toyin Ibidapo. All rights reserved