‘I don’t think I’d fit into a nutshell.’
Remember those kids who were unfortunate enough to have to endure child-harnesses? With his best interests at heart, Barney’s mother still questions whether she needs an app to keep track of her son. Whilst out exploring the world, the Milk Model boy considers himself quite lucky and unlimited by any boundaries he finds as he paths out his career.
Barney warned us he was a big talker, and about a quarter way through this interview we realise he couldn’t have been any closer to the truth. Funny and full of stories, Barney sits down with our Editor-In-Chief Cecilie Harris to take talk us through the development of his not so small beginnings as a chatty child. Starting inside Barney's sketchbook, we unfold Barney's charismatic lines one at a time.
What were you gonna show me?
Oh, it was just one of my sketchbooks. This is one of the designs I’ve been working on. My sister draws too, she does a lot of nude paintings. She used to go to a class with my Grandma every week and draw with with wax crayons, but I like more simple line drawings.
Is this from your graphic design course?
It’s just from my own stuff, because in the graphic design course they like to keep it very generic and very basic.
Instant analogue by Cecilie Harris. Special thanks to IMPOSSIBLE.
You draw as well?
I tried to draw a titty on that one, it didn’t quite work. I like drawing the body. That one there was me trying to design a logo for something.
I like it when an interview starts with art, would you like to introduce yourself?
I’m Barney Aspinall. I’m with Milk Models in London. That’s about it haha.
How would you describe yourself in a nutshell?
I don’t think I’d fit into a nutshell.
Cheeky and realistic.
I’m very much a people’s person I’d like to think. I’m a big talker and I think it’s something I’m quite proud of. From a young age my parents were always like, 'Barney, you’re gonna get in trouble if you don’t shut your gob'. When I first came to London with my Mum and Dad, I was sat chatting to these geezers on the tube who were eyeing me up, and my mum had this awful fright on her face. I didn’t see anything wrong with it, I just thought it was people to talk to. Whenever I’m away she’ll call me and say "You haven’t made any new friends today have you Barney?", and I always have. I make friends everyday. The first time I came to London this year I went to Dalston for a test shoot, but the photographer didn't turn up, so I was like whatever. I ended up going into this coffee shop, which had been there for three weeks. It had one of those espresso coffee machines and it was a pound for a coffee, so I was like 'sweet!', I’ll just get my coffee and sit down and chill. Anyway, so I had my coffee and I started talking to them about this coffee shop in Manchester, which you pay 5p a minute to be there and everything inside it is free. So there’s coffee machines, cakes, toast, cereal and all you’re doing is paying 5p a minute, so it’s £3 an hour. Say if you bought a coffee in a coffee shop and sat down for an hour and read a magazine, it’s just £3.
You can eat a lot in an hour.
You can, but who eats a lot though. You don’t go in to abuse it. I thought when it was my first time there that I was gonna eat the whole bloody place down. I thought I was gonna eat the bloody skirting boards, but I didn’t. I just had one slice of cake and a coffee.
I’m starting to understand why your mum says you talk too much.
I was telling the coffee shop owner in Dalston the same, and I said my goodbyes and he was like, "Hold up, mate" and started pouring me a glass of wine. It was this big Jamaican guy, he was amazing. I think his name was Peter. He poured himself one as well and three hours later I was like, 'Cheers mate, I'm going to have to go' in my very drunk voice, and he replied "Hold up". He bloody made me chicken and chips didn’t he?! It was amazing.
Did you tell your mum?
Yeah, she was very scared, but I’m quite a good judge of personality. I don’t judge people straight away from talking to someone I know, I like to think I can figure out myself what kind of person they are.
What other things are you passionate about?
Making and doing new things, always new things. I can’t stay still for long, I can’t listen to one song too many times. I can’t look at the same painting, I can’t watch the same TV show, I can’t even sit down in front of a TV, I can’t do it.
What kind of things do you put your energy into?
I do a lot of skateboarding, but I had an accident a while back which threw me off. I also do a lot of learning and reading, I like read articles about new people, or just find out about new and interesting things that are happening around me. I go to my grandparents a lot just to hear my Grandad tell stories. It’s weird, because he’ll tell me the same story, and it will be a couple of months since I last heard it, so it'll mean something new.
One of the things I wanted to get to was your creativity, talk to me about that part of you.
I guess it started from quite a young age. When I was in primary school, actually when I was in nursery, it was like I wasn’t one of the mummy’s boys to start with. Weirdly enough, I was going through baby photos the other day and there wasn’t one thing I was fixated on. I didn’t have a doll or toy, instead I would build something. I like learning about new ways to make or do things. It was my brother that got me into it, because he could draw really fancy cartoons, which I thought were cool. I would try and draw how he drew, and soon learnt that I can't actually draw smooth lines. So I thought, I'm buggered in this department aren't I? So all the paintings I've actually done are squiggles.
Does that symbolise your personality?
Yeah, squiggles that’s what’s in this head.
I can imagine you as a little kid running around?
Aimlessly. Oh I had a lead, a toddler lead. I couldn’t go four feet away from my mum without being yanked by my throat, seriously. I was quite insulting as a child, I'd go up to people and say "You look funny. What's that on your nose?"
Why do you have such a big belly?
What’s in there? Are you eating something funny? Yes, that was me.
How are you translating that into adult life?
Not so well.
I’ve already learnt that your mum is still worried.
Yeah, she’s still worried. She wanted me to get this app where she could track me. I was like, 'Mum, this is a step too far. You don’t need to do that. I don’t need an app as a lead.'
Then you found this world of modelling.
Yeah, modelling has been crazy, really crazy. I used to do bits and bobs in year 7 and year 8, for people doing their GCSEs in photography, but I never thought anything of it. I just had big blue eyes. It’s my sister who really got me into it. She went to Parklife festival in Manchester and got picked up by an Asos scout. She did Asos about four times, and as she was living in Manchester at the time she got an agency there. Then she liked one of my photos on Instagram and J’adore Models in Manchester saw it, and said 'bring your brother in' and it just kicked off from there. I ended up with Milk Models in London, which I am also so happy with.
What do you think are your strengths as a model?
I have no boundaries. I’m pretty willing to try new things, and I was talking to someone the other day, because I did a shoot with Rankin and I was butt naked all day.
How did that go?
It was interesting and fun. I’m not one to be scared of the body, but everyone was like "You must have been so nervous?". It’s like, I knew the end result would be good, so I can sacrifice a bit of embarrassment. I don’t mind sacrificing things like that if I know the end result is going to be good. I think that reflects on me quite a lot. Some things I shouldn’t be sacrificing, but in the end it always comes back around.
What do you hope for the future?
To meet the right people, say bye to the wrong people.
That’s great advice. What other things should people know about you?
My social media image is not me. People think I’m a really scary person to talk to. I don’t know if that comes through, but some people get anxious about talking to me.
One of the things we try to do a Boys By Girls is document the young boy of today. Who is that boy of today?
I think the boys of today are the worst, we are becoming the iPhone generation. It’s an Apple generation, where people are just staring at their phones and all they care about is that orange notification. Banksy recreated that in a painting, and that was amazing. It got reposted over loads of people’s social media feeds, and loads of people liked it. I think people follow trends and they don’t follow themselves. In the sense that they should be doing things that they want to do, and not following what other people do. I mean, I find myself on my phone too much, but then again I’m on Instagram for a whole different reason, because that’s where you can get a lot of work. That sounds stupid, but I think models should look after their Instagram.
I think agencies are encouraging that.
Yeah, it should be done. Even following the right person. I got an Urban Outfitters casting just from seeing an Urban Outfitters casting director on Instagram. I noticed she only had like 400 followers, so someone with that amount would see the notifications. Straight away she messaged me, and I was like woah! Instagram is the best tool, but with the kids of today it’s just getting abused, which is a real shame.
What are the good things about today’s generation?
I suppose, in that sense, we’re all connected now. I think I’m looking at in in a very dark view here. It’s not that dark is it?
Photography and Interview by Cecilie Harris.
Introduction by Rachel Abebrese.