“My whole career relies on devices and data…”
Rosemary Kirton: Were you very digital as a kid?
Sam Bayliss-Ibram: My parents are hippies but I always had access to games consoles (PS1, PS2, PS3, PSP, GAMEBOY, GAMECUBE, DREAMCAST, DSI,) when i lived on this estate on the outskirts of town, i used to spend all my time in the local internet cafe drawing manga. This guy that worked there use to lend me imported cardcaptor Sakura dvds, i never gave them back.
RK: You still have the DVDs?
Maybe at my mum’s
RK: Did you ever put any of that fan art on the internet? I’d love to see it.
I was 9/10 so pre social-networking—i only used habbo hotel then.
RK: It’s really interesting because the internet cafe and habbo hotel, these are like temporary zones for those who visit them, nowadays internet access is more pervasive, for some of us at least.
What are you working on at the moment?
Mainly on an editorial involving a video girl on a motorbike—that silhoutte of a woman on a bike is really prominent in Sci-Fi/Action/Anime—i want to use a kawasaki ninja 650 the bike Max Guevara (X5-332960073452) rides in Dark Angel (some fans argue its a modified 450).
RK: How come Dark Angel?
My parents didn’t have a T.V license when i was a younger, the only channel i could tune played reruns of Dark Angel. DA and Buffy were the only shows i really followed as a kid.
RK: That’s a contrast to the kind of access you had to consoles.
In some ways i think i’m better for it, cos its more interactive, i get to choose who i play as. i’ve always played the girls in Tekken firstly for looks and secondly for combos—I either play as Lili or Alisa but back in PS1 days I’d be Nina.
I’m generally drawn to female protagonists in dystopian futures—one of the first mangas i read was Battle Angel Alita and my mum’s favourite author is Margaret Atwood but I like to think my work comes across a little more utopian.
RK: I saw on your tumblr, there’s a great candid of your cousin, Yasmin, on a bike. Looks like an onset shot from a live action movie adaptation of an anime, complete with slick wet streets and hazy neon lights in the dead of night. Was she your inspiration for the shoot too?
Subconsciously yeah—she’s in ibiza in that shot—girls on bikes just looks hard, don’t they?
RK: I definitely feel like you create spectrums of gender in your portfolio as a whole, that’s what I read, I see masculinity and femininity but not as they are commonly known.
My mum and Grandpa never gave a shit if i asked for the sky dancer or action man w/ my happy meal—i wasn’t gender conditioned like most kids.
My first proper crush was Twiggy Ramirez when i was like 11—he use to wear baby doll dresses w huge military boots n dreads then i got really into that whole nancy boy look at school, I had really long hair and passed easily for a girl. I don’t actively think in terms of womens / menswear…its just whatever looks good.
RK: Which apps/sites do you use most often and why?
Instagram—it’s great cos its personable and has original content, essentially its self publishing with no production cost. All my beauty references are from IG—the girls on there are so creative. Instagram hoe is definitely the look. IG users
@mutyabuena , @bunnygoodchild, @tokyostylez, @lexx_xi document global style—even in this day and age where the lines between cultures is so blurred you can still find unique localised fashion.
RK: How do you confront the situation of updates to your services, a lot of people find them traumatic, and others seem barely phased by evolving interfaces.
I do it immediately I like the speed of technology—I’m really impatient.
RK: I find people feel as though the digital/internet should only be a small supplement to social interaction and not a substitute, seeing digital interactions as abstract/ineffectual but I’m dubious of this attitude. How do you feel about it?
I’m drawn to avatars and second life but i don’t necessarily think its healthy – people are putting on digital cosplays and building personality that they don’t convey IRL.
But i think a lot of kids that feel disenfranchised really relate to anime, its a really abstract culture and cosplaying is really powerful if you’re uncertain in ur identity. I have a really amazing book you should borrow, Alter Ego – Avatars and their creators’ by Robbie Cooper.
RK: Thanks, I’ll check it out. I notice that the subjects of your photography have many mutual friends, like you’re happy to provide a transparency about the networks you’re involved in.
I’ve never thought about it really – when I’m street casting i always look at people’s friends online and ask them if they know people that be down to shoot – i respect photographers who build genuine relationships with their subjects and crews, i never want my models to feel exploited.
I’m interested in the duality of real/artifice and try and explore that within my work through ‘hyper-documentary’ by street casting an actual group of friends, putting them in artificial lighting/studio—and go from there, see how they behave and transform under the lens.
RK: I notice you’ve photographed your subjects wearing Nasir Mazhar quite often, which to me, has parallels with the clothing from the anime Kill la Kill; those combative, sporty, bondage pieces have to be met with an equally formidable wearer/user.
Ryuko’s uniform is amazing its kinda emo… i work w/ my friend Bunny a lot and we both love anime sluts so we always reference it, somehow maybe with hair or pose (shoulders back, chest pushed out, sad girl eyes, mouth ajar.)
RK: I feel like HBA, Nasir Mazhar, Eckhaus Latta all have something earnestly scifi, about them, not a caricature, although Eckhaus Latta is way more soft-sci-fi like ‘Dune.’
Armour for a real life- Nas and HBA makes the wearer feel powerful, ready to face any shit.
RK: I like the anime, Mirrai Nikki (The Future Diary), there’s inter-dimensional time-travel, cell-phones that tell the future, lots of twists and some of it is pretty disturbing. What’s also great is its (Japanese anime and manga) a wholly distinct cultural canon too.
But (in western media ) it always gets watered down to ‘weird asian shit’ which is really odd to me because there’s so many cultures, religions and peoples within ‘asia’.
RK: I found an essential Tumblr not long ago called Hood-Futurism. Which explores the tennets of afro-futurism within the scope of emerging and current network culture.
I follow hoodfuturism already, its really good—it makes the connection between RnB music videos and classical Sci-Fi imagery. some of the best Sci-Fi images are from M/Vs like Hype Williams—the visuals for Janet Jackson’s ‘Whats It Gonna Be?’ for example are fucking insane. If we’re gonna talk about Hype we’ve got to talk Aaliyah—
RK: When the most recent FKA Twigs video came out, and I saw her head-dress, I immediately thought of Aaliyah in Queen of the Damned. I switched tabs to facebook and saw you’d beaten me to the post by making that comparison already.
I really hate queen of the Damned it’s so badly written in comparison to Interview with A Vampire but I love Aaliyah as Akasha I just wish she was the lead, not Lestat.
I did like the Ancient Egyptian aspect of the film but they could have focused more on it—I’ve always been interested in mythology that’s what drew me to tomb raider as a kid.
RK: In fact I think the water me video immediately reminded me of the PS1 Mental Wealth advert too.
Twigs is cool I use to assist Matthew (Stone) Josephs who did that cover of i-D w/ her (2012). And Chris Cunningham is a fucking G—everything he does amazes me – you can tell by his working the relationships- some really inspiring people (Aphex Twin, Bjork, Playstation etc.)
RK: There’s plenty of musicians/artists doing some really exciting work these days that doesn’t falter when it comes to addressing the intersections of technology, race, gender and sexuality, like Juliana Huxtable, Angel Haze and Leif, for example who you’ve already worked with.
Im fortunate that i’ve only worked with musicians i generally fuck w like Ian Isiah he is the future—trust.
A lot of my mates are DJs they’re really progressive, sonically n visually like lexx we’re working on a series of visuals/audios. I’m interested in moving into music videos- the audience you can reach working with them is really much broader than photography. I really respect the M/V’s Princess Nokia and Milah Libin have been producing for ‘Metallic Butterfly’—their work explores a lot of the themes we’ve been discussing and it’s independently made, which is really important.
RK: In that odd time and place we might call the mid 2000s, post-Aaliyah, before there was such an all-encompassing social media uptake, what devices were you using—did you have a profile on Myspace?
Myspace was my life bk in yr 7-9 – we took it really seriously, it was all about looks and music—there was really specific things you had to have, checkered van slip-on’s, dickies shorts & an atticus tee. I went to see The Used in brixton on my 13th birthday—Bert McCracken was a big style influence.
RK: I remember learning how to embed an image on Myspace felt very cool but I never got much farther than that.
I knew basic html—me and my friends were recently trying to hack into our old photobucket accounts, unsuccessfully…. Anyway I’ve got to go into deep retouching mode now.