Julia Fullerton-Batten, Eclectix Interview
Fine-art photographer Julia Fullerton-Batten is well-known for her use of unusual locations, creative settings and cinematic lighting. But the meat of Julia’s matter is in her strong vision and suggested messages. Highly imaginative and complex narratives compose her portfolios which are often centered around a specific theme. The human condition and chords if its discontent are elegantly represented – societal outcasts, sexuality and gender identity, conformity, nationalism, lost love, misogyny, loneliness, class struggle, psychological turmoil, sexism and isolation.
Her series ”Unadorned” features stark naked people from all walks of life, often contemplative, overweight and older – these are real folks dramatically posed in domiciles and rooms. “Mothers and Daughters” captures the heartbreaking tension and divide, alienation and despair involved in the relationships between mothers and daughters. Strong subjects are hinted at – dominance and submission, beauty and self-image and the separation as a child grows up and away.
Subtle symbolism abounds in her work – moldy lemons, ripe tomatoes, wilted flowers, a fish out of water, partially open doors, curtained windows, corporate boardrooms and sterile sparse homes. Often mysterious suggestions of previous interactions are implied, as if the viewer has been caught in the middle of an ongoing drama. Vintage clothes and furnishings are also part of her settings and the subjects are often posed in a stiff, removed, and severe posture – as if they were dramatic actors posing on a stage. Full of beautiful and lush colorations, gorgeously moody lighting and surreal juxtapositions, Julia’s work is fashionable, intense, thought-provoking and spellbinding.
Do you work full-time on your art or do you also have another job?
I work full-time on my art and commerce, but I am married and I am mother to two young, energetic boys.
You take many beautiful staged photographs – does a theme form first in your head or as you go along?
Thank you for your compliment. I develop a theme over several weeks, sometimes months.
How long does it generally take for you to set up a shoot? How much digital reworking do you do?
The preparation for a shoot takes quite some time, but on the day of the shoot I am fully prepared to know what and how I am going to shoot a scene. The time for setting up a particular scene may take a few minutes or hours depending on the changes that are needed. In most cases I do very little digital reworking as working digitally enables me to get most aspects of the shot fixed in the camera so that retouching is fairly minimal.
Do you ever get a desire to change your style?
I have already done two videos for The Tate modern and Breast Cancer Care Awareness, as well as doing personal work that is un-staged, so I am flexible. But I do not think that a permanent change in my style is yet necessary.
As an artist, do you think there is outside pressure to stick with a successful style?
No, not necessarily. I think that the viewing public will judge any work based on its visual content and not on the name and the style normally associated with that name.
An an interesting bit of history surrounding one of my distant relatives is …
My great-grandfather was a coachman of a coach-and-four in North Wales in the late 19th Century. He married a publican’s daughter, who sadly died of alcoholism at 24 years old, whereupon he inherited the pub. He became bankrupt a few years later.
My favorite art memory from my childhood is …
My father disappearing into his makeshift darkroom, and then we found the family bath full of B&W prints.
My interest in art/photography started …
Basically with my father’s interest in photography. He was a keen amateur photographer and was always carrying one or more cameras with him.
I am often inspired and motivated by …
Getting up in the morning… Even when surrounded by boys, my thoughts are not far away from the project in hand, or a new project on the horizon.
If I could spend the day with any artist (dead or alive) it would be …
It has to be Gregory Crewdson. I went to visit one of his ‘talks’ a while back and would love to talk more with him.
The art technique that has helped me the most is ….
Without a doubt my lighting technique, where I mix artificial and natural light, as much as 20 sets of lights on set to create a different surreal world.
If I could own one piece of art, out of the world’s collections, it would be …
Edward Hopper’s ‘Night Hawks’. The scene is based on an American diner on the corner of a street set against brown-brick buildings characteristic of downtown New York. It looks to be a simple oil painting of a commonplace scene containing three seated people, a couple and a separate male seen only from behind being served by one young man from behind a counter. But, for me it has so much additional content, so many questions to be answered. The lighting is extraordinarily complex and has inspired me to try to emulate it.
My current favorite piece of my own art is …
My husband’s photograph taken of a stormy sea on our honeymoon in Madagascar, because it brings back many memories and looks more like a painting, rather than a photo.
The most memorable thing anyone has ever said to me about my art is …
“it makes me love my mother more…..”
My ultimate project or fantasy is …
“ I would like to photograph people who have changed the world, for better or worse. Einstein, Hitler, Abraham Lincoln …”
A specific event/aspect in my life that sparked a number of my works was ….
I have shot a whole series of projects based on the female psyche; from teenage angst to mother-daughter relationships and a grown woman’s downward spiral when confronted with unrequited love. Without embarrassment I admit to the auto-biographical nature of much of the content of these images. Having exorcised the past I have now fortunately moved on.
If I could time travel – the era or historical date I would like to drop in on is …
My parents kept moving and I would get thrown into new schools, I would like to go back in 1980, USA and I would hold my own hand through the experience.
The last song I chose to listen to was …
Harvest Moon, by Neil Young
One of my favorite words is …
One of my favorite smells is …
Popping pop corn.
I can’t live without …
It’s not hip, but I really love …
My apple tree.
My favorite part of my home is …
My office, set up in what was a small bedroom with a window looking out on to the garden, mature trees, tall chimney stacks of my home area of London and the constantly changing sky-scape. There I prepare my creative work, research, phone and e-mail correspondence with the world, perform all my business activities, print out and feel at one with myself and my passion for photography.
If you could live anywhere in the world, where would that be?
London is the best place for me right now.
My favorite motto (or quote) is …
‘Do as you will be done by’.
It’s probably Confucian, but I read it in the Charles Kingsley’s ‘Water Babies’ where the lady character with the same name mothered the poor boy chimney sweep, who had been abused by his master when sweeping chimneys in the stately homes in England, as was common then in the days of child labour.
Upcoming Exhibitions (2014)
USA Expo Chicago, Jenkins-Johnson Gallery, Sept. 18 – 21st
USA, The Fence, Photoville, Brooklyn Bridge Park, NY, June – Oct. 2014
Unseen Photofair, Flatland Gallery. Amsterdam, Sept. 18 – 26th
Paris Photo, France, Nov. 13 – 16th
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