Polly Borland has photographed many notable names from Nick Cave to Cate Blanchett, and from Mark Vessey to Sherald Lambden. Even Queen Elizabeth stood before her camera. But we’d like to direct our eyes from her masterful portrait photography towards her exhibition “The Babies” at Mier Gallery, Los Angeles. We begin to ask our questions as reality is replaced with irony through Borland’s objective.
Why is Diane Arbus a big inspiration for you?
My sister Fritha introduced Diane Arbus by gifting her famous first book to me in the 70’s and I was so moved and inspired by her and fascinated by the world she depicted in such a direct way.
Why do you think Queen choose you for photo shooting? Can you tell us how was the whole process was like?
I was chosen to photograph the Queen because I had had a show at the National Portrait Gallery in London. I took my time setting up the photos I took of her, I had months to think about it before hand. I had five minutes with her and only took two rolls of film I was lucky to get two good photos out of that.
To us, what makes your works striking is that the way they feel intimate. Where do you think this intimacy comes from?
It comes from my love of people and humanity. I make people feel relaxed which opens them up to me.
How do you choose your subjects?
They choose me in the case of portraits. But for my own personal work, I have to find my subjects visually and psychologically interesting.
Are you still into portraits?
I no longer take portrait photos. I’d rather prefer focusing on my own personal work that I exhibit. So now I only take portraits for special friends or publications I admire. I’ve recently done a few photo shoots for very close friends like Susie and Nick Cave for English Vogue.
You have been photographing Nick Cave for more than 35 years. How did your relationship evolve through the years?
I met him in Melbourne Australia. When I was 19 years old he saw a photo, I did of an artist friend –Tony Clark- we both knew. Nick approached me to take one of him as well… Later we became friends and I’ve been photographing him ever since. Now is easier to photograph Nick because we trust each other and I know how to photograph him to get the best results.
Can you tell us the story behind “Babies”? How did you come up with the idea? Where did you take the series?
A friend told me about this phoneme called “Adult Babies” and I did a story for an English publication called The Independent Saturday Magazine. I decided to do a book after that on this subject. So, I spent 5 years in the second part of the 90’s photographing those Adult Babies.
In the series, despite the naked bodies of men, there is the absence of any sexual overtones. Why did you use only male subjects?
Most Adult Babies I encountered where men the lack of sexual overtone was because they were role playing babies.
How would you describe your photographs?
To me no but to some people yes. But we seemed to be less shocked by things nowadays because of the limitless access we have to so much imagery on the internet. Back when I photographed this group, it was a highly secretive society yet undiscovered by the underdeveloped internet.