When I got an email from a long lost friend from high school, Xavier Aaronson, about a blog he started called Babes at the Museum, I was skeptical to say the least. Not only are there countless bloggers trying to be the next Sartorialist, but a site chronicling female and male “babes” isn’t something that would naturally appeal to me. Skimming through the site, however, I was unexpectedly hooked. There’s something about the idea of turning museum goers “into art” that is intriguing, not to mention that the site squashes the notion that being culturally curious and attractive are incongruent. But what exactly is “a babe” and in which museums are they most pervasive? I found out this and more when I spoke to Aaronson.
The Fashion Spot: Where did the idea for the blog come from?
Xavier Aaronson: I was on a date at the MOMA checking out the William Kentridge exhibition when I noticed how many stylish people there were in the same gallery.
tFS: How do you define a "babe"?
XA: They're boys, they're girls, and they don't necessarily have to be gorgeous. A babe is someone with a subtle flair and discreet beauty that is uncommon at bars and clubs, and remains camouflaged in museum settings. BATM sets out to uncover and capture those babes.
tFS: Were it not for the babes, do you have any interest in art/museums?
XA: Absolutely. Since the days of school field trips, I've always enjoyed going to the museum. I took some art history in college and became a member at a few different museums before the BATM really kicked in. I don't think BATM would ever have happened were it not for my interest in museums to begin with.
tFS: What's people's reaction when you ask to take their picture?
XA: It's a combined reaction of laughter and flattery.
tFS: Has this blog helped you pick up girls?
XA: Not really. Although I see how it could. BATM has helped me meet some interesting people who luckily understand and can share in the concept.
tFS: Are you allowed to take photos in most museums?
XA: Some museums prohibit photography altogether. But for the most part, museums allow some non-flash photography. All depends on the museum, really. For example, the Guggenheim and New Museum's guards are pretty fierce and have interfered with some shots. One of these days, I hope to find a babe museum guard and convince them to let me take their photo.
tFS: Is there a "museum look"? If so, does it differ in the more avant garde and modern museums?
XA: I don't think there is a "museum look". However, the babes that appeal to the concept typically have a style that is smart and fun. MOMA's PS1 attracts a more edgy and stylish crowd of museum-goers. On the polar end of that spectrum, I'd say the American Museum of Natural History lacks some babes since it's mostly frequented by kids and their parents; although I'm eager to get a photo of a babe posing by the famous large whale.
tFS: Do you take all the images yourself?
XA: I take the majority of the photos. Occasionally, my girlfriend Johanne will join me and take some photos as well. Otherwise, I have some contributors who submit every so often and some surprise submissions that usually brighten my day.
tFS: Most memorable person you've shot?
XA: It would have to be of Emeri who I shot last week at the New Museum. She was an employee who worked at the front desk. This was my first time shooting a babe at the museum who also worked at the museum.
tFS: If someone wants to get your attention in a museum, what's the best way to go about it and get shot?
XA: Look really awesome in your own way and be really into whatever art you've come to see. Babes who least expect it usually make for the best babes on camera.
tFS: Do you have a favorite picture so far?
XA: I do. I like very much the tastefully nude one of 4 girls in front of a large-scale oil painting. I think they're re-dramatizing it. I received that one as a random submission and I'm still dying to find out where it was taken and how they pulled it off. But a less obvious choice would be the photo I took of this Icelandic couple and their toddler at PS1 in Queens. All three of them had an impeccably simple yet zany style to them. Capturing a babe family is like a snapshot of a fleeting unicorn.
tFS: What museums have you shot in?
Since I live and work in NYC, that's where I do most of my shooting. So, New Museum, Guggenheim, The Metropolitan, MOMA, and American Museum of Natural History make up the bulk of the BATM locations. I'm currently in Denmark for a music festival but will find time to at least go to one Copenhagen museum in order to add some international flair to the blog. I'm wondering what the Danish reaction will be to BATM.
tFS: Where did all the international shots come from on BATM?
Most come from submissions from museum-goers in Paris, Stockholm, and London, so far. We full-heartedly accept submissions, but don't guarantee they will get posted. To submit your babe shots email me at firstname.lastname@example.org
tFS: Is there a particular museum you find that you always get some great shots in?
XA: MOMA and The Metropolitan Museum of Art usually garner the best shots. There's heavy foot traffic in those areas, which makes for good chances of spotting babes and plenty of gallery rooms in order to get an array of contrasting backgrounds for your shots (ie. paintings, installations, sculptures…)
tFS: With so many street style blogs…
XA: I don' t think I can compete with some of the great street style blogs out there. BATM is more about the concept anyway. Sneaking around guards, intercepting babes when they don't expect it, and working within the parameters of niche locations is what I think separates BATM from the abundant amount of the street style blogs.
tFS: What's your goal ultimately with this blog?
XA: My goal is to ultimately have a photo exhibition in a museum one day featuring a collection of babes at the museum photos. And possibly publish a book that would make for good bathroom reading.
tFS: I see you have some events listed on your page — can you tell us about them and if you plan on having any more?
XA: Before photographing and interpreting the project in a literal sense, BATM started out as the name I attributed to the events I would put together in Brooklyn. We've presented some film screenings, DJ parties, and full-on concerts. The events are just a way to get more people to find out about the blog and combine babes, art, and parties, all under one roof.
tFS: What are some fashion trends you're loving right now?
XA: Jumpsuits and colorful socks.
tFS: How would you describe your style?
XA: New York Nordic.