Hey, Adolescent! Happy October. This week, our Member Crush is Amarie Baker—a queer black visual artist who works in the realms of collage, film, and digital illustration. Her work is experimental and full of dream-like colors, challenging its viewers to rethink conventional concepts. While the instantaneous nature of digital technology can be liberating and accessible, she finds delay and constraint to be an alternative kind of freedom that counters the capitalist attention economy. We talked to Amarie about being a military kid, why she loves shooting Super8, and why she chooses to work across a variety of mediums.
Adolescent Content: Tell me a bit about where you’re from. In what ways do you think your upbringing influences the work you’re doing now?
Amarie Baker: My parents were in the military when I was a kid, so I moved around a lot. I think because of this I’ve always been okay doing my own thing. I always had a really active imagination and would paint, make crafts, or read books with my younger sister. I’m grateful that my imagination is something I’ve managed to hold onto as I get older. It allows me to see solutions where others see barriers. My friends always joke that I can do absolutely anything, and in my heart I know that I can—but the truth is that everyone can.
Adolescent: Do color and light play into the meaning behind your work?
Amarie: Absolutely. I love playing with light, filters, and crystals to create really dreamy, nostalgic visuals. That’s one of the reasons I love shooting Super8 and 35mm. I’m always asking myself what I can do to push things just a little bit further, which I admit at times isn’t very technical. Sometimes it’s trial and error with analog technology, but it really has made me a better creative. It also forces me to be really intentional with what I capture because I don’t have an infinite amount of shots the way I would with a digital camera. For perspective, with 35mm you get 36 shots per roll; for Super8 each 50-foot cartridge is about three minutes of footage. So you have to really know what shots you need.
Adolescent: Can you tell me a little about the biinar bb collective?
Amarie: I moved to New York in 2016 and started working on various productions in addition to attending The New School. I had a few terrible experiences on set. Every production was dominated by majority male crews where I was often flat-out ignored whenever I would ask questions, or I was bascially being called stupid for any input I provided. I decided to stop working on major productions and focused on working with my friends. I first helped my classmate Lamin Leroy Gibba with his short film Fever Source. It was such an amazing experience—it showed me not all productions will be like that. From then on I was determined to only work on productions that created inviting atmospheres and encouraged collaborations.
With each project I work on through this collective, I prioritize making sure the crew is made up of women of color and trans or gender non-conforming folks. It’s really important to me that everyone is given a real opportunity and that no one feels inadequate while they’re on set. Regardless of your level of experience I let everyone know that you’re more than welcome to be a part of my production. I know white men in this industry that have accepted a gig that they did not know how to do but watched a YouTube tutorial the day before and did an okay job on set. I think as women we often feel like we can’t do something if we’re not qualified which prevents us from saying yes to certain gigs. But nothing could be further from the truth. We’re just as qualified, and it was my hope when I started the collective that it would give people a real space to grow and learn.
Adolescent: biinar bb is working on a short film right now–how exciting! Are you involved with the project?
Amarie: I directed, styled, cast, and wrote the project. When I look back on it I realize that this was really really ambitious of me, haha. But the storyline for the project compares women of color to flowers, and it was really important for me to make sure that this story got told. It was a big project and I’m so grateful to everyone that was involved. Currently, I’m applying for a women’s grant from New York City that would allow me to finish the film. If I can secure the funding, the film will be out in 2021. Fingers crossed!
Adolescent: Talk to me about your work with Pansyco and Refinery29!
Amarie: I’m really grateful to have worked with both Refinery29 and Pansyco. Laura owns Pansy, and she’s an absolute dream. She works with women photographers and really trusts their vision. I pitched to her about shooting this last project on Super8 and she really encouraged me to go for it. That was surreal—typically, brands won’t invest in analog tech because it’s more expensive than digital and takes maybe two weeks or more to get the footage processed, developed, and scanned. But everything came out so beautifully and we were both so happy with the results!
Adolescent: You work across so many mediums, from writing to video to design. How do you nurture all of these different interests?
Amarie: I think I just really make time to be myself. I make sure I do things in the real world and try to stay off the internet as much as I can. I realize this is ironic as I share my work online, but I’ll make time to meditate, go to the botanical gardens, or read so that I’m always inspired by my real life and not the life I curate for people. I really struggle with using Instagram because I think of it as more of a creative diary than a flex. I’m just really bad at pretending and don’t have time for the superficial bullshit that’s being shared on the platform. I’m grateful to have met some really amazing people through Insta, but I think in order to stay inspired you have to do your own thing.