POV Interview: Robert Stroud Talks ‘Bums!’

Courtesy of Toronto Youth Shorts

By Alyssa Schmidt

The short documentary Bums! looks at photographer Katie Budd as she invites people into her home and studio to take photographs of their naked behinds. An insightful little piece on the pull human beings feel towards the body in its natural form, this documentary feels inexplicably important.

At a lack of motivation for his student film for Humber College, young director Robert Stroud remembers seeing an article for Budd’s photography project on his Facebook newsfeed and feeling struck with inspiration. “Of course people will go for this,” he recalls. “It has butts!”

He says that this certainty has been a safety net. He’s confident “that people would be interested in the subject, no matter how the film turned out.”

Honestly, the assumption is entirely accurate. Society holds a strong fascination for the human body.

“I think it’s because we’re sort of trapped in our own bodies that we’re so interested in others,” says Stroud. “There’s an element of escapism in voyeurism. We don’t have many opportunities to just look at each other and ourselves in a non-judgemental, non-sexual way.”

Stroud’s argument highlights one of the best aspects of this short. As an audience member, one can watch the film and observe a diverse array of naked bums free of judgement.

The way the subjects of Budd’s camera bare themselves honestly and openly cultivates a form of empathy between the subjects and the spectators. We place ourselves in their shoes, each person considering their insecurities with their own body. There is a sense of admiration found in the way the subjects are apprehensive about what they have volunteered for, yet proceed regardless.

Before Budd’s shutter clicks, her subjects are vulnerable. Then, she takes their photo and their nudity is transformed from a symbol of vulnerability into a coat of armour.

Bums! screened at Toronto Youth Shorts.

Bums! Trailer from Robert Stroud on Vimeo.