How much do you really know about adult babies? The sexual fetish – otherwise known as paraphilic infantilism – is probably one of the most maligned and marginalised in existence. Participants, in an effort to get turned on sexually, wear adult-sized nappies, shit themselves, and co-opt cooing, baby speak. Even for the carnally adventurous, it’s a lot.
For photographer Polly Borland, though, this world has always been misunderstood. In her 90s photo series, The Babies, she attempts to shine a light on its darkest corners – capturing a group of British men who regularly indulge in the practice of ‘adult babying’. The project, which was taken over six years from 1994-1999, has now been resurrected for an exhibition at the Los Angeles’ Mier Gallery.
At the time the photos were taken, Australian-born Borland was living in England. She claims to have found most of her subjects at an underground club in Kent. “I found it to be mainly a male phenomenon,” she remembers. “Occasionally, female partners of the babies would dress up to please their partner, but I didn’t find much evidence otherwise of female participation in the culture. It should be noted, however, that many adult male babies would role play as female babies, not really in a sexual way of course but more in a playful act of imagination.”
The photographer adds that, from her experience, the movement was highly varied and “individualistic”, with Borland finding many differences in how each “baby” would choose to express themselves. “Everywhere I went I found different preferences,” she says. “ down to which kind of nappies they chose to wear, whether they were terry towelling or disposable. Different babies chose to be infants and some to be young toddlers.”
The show is running at the Mier until August 19th, alongside the photographer’s Tapestries – a series of woven interpretations of Queen Elizabeth II. According to Borland, the response to both projects has been mixed.
“A lot of younger people who came to my opening thought the work was beautiful and amazing, while others found it the most challenging body of work they have ever seen! I’m happy with both of these reactions, as I’d like my work to evoke strong responses from viewers,” she tells Huck. “[It’s down to] my own desire to explore life all its infinite glory, which means unpacking things that are sometimes difficult to look at.”
Polly Borland’s The Babies and Tapestries is running at LA’s Mier Gallery until August 19th.