Julia Fullerton Batten presentation and interview.
We are very pleased to have Julia Fullerton Batten as our distinguished judge for the May competition. Julia is an internationally acclaimed photographer who makes a huge contribution to contemporary photography with her utterly original style, impressive achievements and omnipresence in the art world.
Julia Fullerton Batten was born in Germany and grew up in between the United States and her home country. She finally landed in the UK at the age of 16. Julia found her home here in London but continued to travel the world. She studied photography at the Royal Berkshire College of Art and Design. She started her professional career in 2001 after five years of assisting a wide variety of photographers. She rapidly developed a reputation as one of the leading photographers in Europe. She has exhibited all around the world and her art is now permanently exposed at the National Portrait Museum of London.
Photography awards-wise, she has had the chance to experience both sides. As a winner and as a judge! She has won many prestigious awards such as the Hasselblad Master in Fine Art and WPO award. She has sat on the panel for international competitions like the Taylor Wessing Portrait Prize, the Renaissance Prize as well as the WPO.
Her main personal body of work is articulated around three projects looking primarily at teenage girls in relation to their social and spatial integration in their environments. Pure. Transcendental. Sometimes even quite disturbing… We invite you to discover it in her online portfolio. On her blog she also features weekly updates about her projects and personal interviews. We are sure you will find plenty of interesting tips and maybe the key to unlock the mysteries behind a few of her incredible pictures.
© Julia Fullerton Batten.
© Julia Fullerton Batten.
© Julia Fullerton Batten.
© Julia Fullerton-Batten.
© Julia Fullerton Batten.
It’s a real pleasure to welcome Julia Fullerton Batten to Life Framer, and an honor to have some of her time. For anyone who’s seen her work before, you’ll see that she’s a perfect fit for a theme that explores human nature.
Julia was kind enough to answer some questions we posed to her regarding her style, technique, ethos and projects.
Personal work © Julia Fullerton Batten.
Life Framer is not your first experience of photography awards from the judge’s perspective – in fact you’ve sat on panels for some prestigious awards; like Hasselblad Master in Fine Art and WPO award. What are you looking for in your winning image(s)?
I am looking for fresh creative work. Images that I have not seen before, and I think :”I wish I had shot that!!”
You’re recent work has broached some original and intense subjects – ‘Unadorned’ confronts narcissism and the modern ultra-thin societal ideal of beauty, and ‘Blind’ confronts how much we take our sight for granted, and how those without it interpret the world. Where do the ideas to start these projects come from, and with ‘Blind’ for example, how do you go about finding your subjects and persuading them to join your project?
Most of my earlier projects were to a great extent autobiographical, a cathartic analysis of my own experiences as a teenager and my relationship with my mother. In hindsight, the project ‘School Play’ was my first project where I started to make a social commentary. This approach I wanted to extend more consciously in ‘Unadorned’ and ‘Blind’.
Casting for all my projects has involved finding amateurs, who have not modelled before. This approach yields a freshness and innocence that is not always possible with professional models. In the early days of my fine-art career, I was intensely involved in finding my models. Nowadays I also involve an agent, who has a wider field of contacts. We both advertise or make contact through websites, or contact societies and charities involved with such people; for example, in the case of ‘Blind’ the Royal Institute for the Blind. I always meet with my models before I select them. I get to know them as persons as well as judge their suitability for what I have in mind.
From the series ‘Blind’.
Your blog has some fascinating insight, and it seems that your shoots are often quite grand affairs with a team of hair and make-up artists, prop stylists etc (and all the better for it). Now that you feel accustomed to having a team around you, do you still enjoy being alone with a camera?
I always carry a camera with me; the shoots themselves are only a minor part of the use of a camera. Not only do I use my camera for personal shoots, but also to find new ideas and to flesh out the bare bones of them once I decide to go ahead with one. I had a solo show in Tokyo a few weeks back and decided to stay on and take photos. I had a translator and an assistant with me. We had minimal lighting that we kept in a suitcase and just walked the streets. Once I found something interesting, we would set up the lights, and I would wait for someone interesting to walk by. This is an approach I used to take, and it felt very refreshing. No hair and make up, no styling, no casting, no brief. Just enjoying photography…
What can we expect from you next? Do you have any more personal projects that you’re dying to get off the ground?
I am working on some new ideas. As I have just completed the Blind project, I tend to have a little break and start getting creative thoughts.
From the series Tokyo. © Julia Fullerton Batten.
What advice would you give to photographers trying to make a name for themselves? Or to your younger self starting out?
Of all the creative arts, I feel that photography is probably the most difficult of them to break into as a career, even more so for it to be a successful one. I think it is definitely even more difficult today than it was back when I started. At any time, there are probably several hundred thousand enthusiastic and often talented young photographers, who dream of photography as a career. Digital has made it easier to be photographer today. Combine the newcomers with those, who have already established themselves and all are finding that they are confronted with a diminishing market. Competition today is very fierce.
There are no easy steps, after learning the basics of photography at college; I spent the next five years as an assistant to quite a number of professional photographers. During this time I learned many different practical and business skills that stand me in good stead today, and I have never ever regretted the time that I spent as an assistant. Maybe this is the most pertinent advice that I could give to a budding photographer, even today.
Your website has a greater focus on personal work than commissions. Is this a true reflection of how much time you spend on each? How do you select commissions, and do you enjoy the restraint they impose that you don’t get with a personal project?
My career as a photographer started with photographing commissions, and I still do several each year, but as time progressed I enjoyed more and more the opportunity to have complete control of a project, from the concept of an idea to the end-product. It is very rewarding to see the result of a body of work on which one has spent several months to produce it.
Advertising can also be very rewarding. Over the last couple of years my commissions have become more interesting. The most creative clients are charity jobs, they don’t pay, but can be very creative.
From the series ‘Unadorned’. © Julia Fullerton Batten.
Where do you see your career going? If you could look ten years into the future, what would you like to see?
In my ideal world I would enjoy to have continued my present reputation as a fine-art photographer and even enhanced it, that I publish several more books and have a permanent exhibition in a prominent gallery, maybe even mentor some up-and-coming new talents. I am also enjoying the privilege to be a judge and to hold presentations on my work; maybe these roles will become even more significant in the future.
And finally, anything else you’d like to add? Carte blanche…
At the tender age of sixteen years old I made a decision that I wanted to be a photographer. Ever since then it has been my life and there is not a day that I wake up and don’t rejoice about my decision and what I have achieved since then. I have developed my skills and photographic content throughout those years, but I’m aware that I still have a lot more to learn and to contribute to the world through my photography.
A huge thank you for Julia for such thoughtful responses. You can see more of her work here
and explore the rest of the award here