UK photographer and mature university student David Baker has shot a series of before-and-after portraits of people who finally got haircuts as COVID restrictions were eased to allow barbershops to open again.
Baker, a former policeman who’s studying for a BA in Commercial Photography at Arts University Bournemouth (AUB, one of the best art universities in the UK), set up a portrait studio at the back of a barbershop (Barnet’s Barbers in Wareham) and documented the changing customer hairstyles.
Owner Andy Pritchett in front of Barnet’s Barbers in Wareham.
“The idea came following research for my current university assignment,” Baker tells PetaPixel. “The brief is ‘What Makes a Good Portrait’ and I had been looking at Thomas Ruff’s vernacular portrait series, it just so happened to coincide with the COVID restrictions being eased in the UK.
“I pitched the idea to my barber who was happy for me to spend a couple of days shooting at the back of the shop. Space was limited as I was shooting right next to one of the barbers, so I went for a simple two-light setup, a small silver-lined octabox with a single layer of diffusion to give the images a little boost in contrast and a small flash on the background.”
The photo studio Baker set up at the back of the barbershop.
Barbershops had been closed for 4 months as a safety precaution during the second wave of COVID-19 pandemic lockdowns in the UK. Upon reopening, Barnet’s Barbers owner Andy Pritchett personally did 246 haircuts in 84 hours over 6 days to meet the pent-up demand for haircuts (about 40% more than an average week).
Baker captured 220 portraits over the course of 24 hours with a Canon R5 and 24-105mm lens at 74mm, and he says the photo style was inspired by Thomas Ruff and his austere portraits.
“One customer’s wife had attempted to cut his hair and she’d dropped the clippers, taking a clump out of his head of hair, and then the clippers then fell on their dog below taking a clump from him too!” Baker tells AUB. “The team definitely had a lot of bad home haircuts to fix.”
Baker left law enforcement and started pursuing photography during the pandemic after a cycle accident left him with a brain injury and blindness in one eye.
“Starting a commercial photography degree as a 45-year-old in the middle of a global pandemic has had its challenges!” Baker says. “Our time on campus has been restricted and all our lectures are on Zoom, so with limited studio time and also periods of lockdown it was good to spend time in the barbers shooting portraits and chatting to people.”
You can find more of Baker’s work on his website, Facebook, and Instagram.