G   /   February 01, 2015   /   0 Comments

By Natalie Denton

“It is important to feel loved by the photographer or the director, so you are able to give as much as possible. I felt like Julia really appreciated me. I played several characters and it was fun. I didn’t have to do loads of homework or learn lots of lines, and to be surrounded by passionate people without any pressure was a joy. Truly, Julia was my inspiration.” – Eva Green on Julia Fullerton-Batten

 

“What was so refreshing with Eva was every time she came on set, she totally performed, knew the story behind the cocktail and it just made my job so much easier.  Campari approached me to ask if I wanted to photograph the calendar for 2015 and I was like, ‘yes!’ – I didn’t know who the muse would be, but I was over the moon when I found out that it was Eva, because I didn’t want to work with someone typical. I think Eva has something quite amazing about her. She was the perfect choice for the calendar.” – Julia Fullerton-Batten on Eva Green

Commercial versus fine art photography – Can you ever do both? Natalie Denton talks to colossal award-winner Julia Fullerton Batten on how she has done just that

What’s more important as a photographer; to be highly paid or highly respected? And is it possible to achieve both? In a climate of fierce competition and employment saturation, it’s fair to say that any photographer who can achieve either one of these is a success. Ready your applause then, for the woman who is not only a thriving, perpetually in-demand commercial photographer, but one of the most richly decorated fine art photographers in the world with over 150 awards under her belt – one who has exhibited in every pocket of the globe, on more than 100 occasions. Ladies and gentlemen: Julia Fullerton-Batten.

As one of the most sought-after contemporary shooters, understandably, Julia is always working. However, we were lucky enough to catch up with her during the launch of this year’s Campari calendar, which she was commissioned to photograph. The ultra-prestigious Campari project has become known as one of the world’s most coveted and exclusive calendars, employing only the very best photographers (including the likes of Mario Testino) to capture its product in the hands of a chosen Hollywood A-lister. The 2015 muse was revealed as James Bond actress Eva Green, following in the footsteps of film stars such as Uma Thurman, Penélope Cruz, Benicio del Toro and Eva Mendes, with the theme centring on ‘Mythology Mixology’ – a visual depiction of the legends and stories behind 12 of the best-loved, Campari-based cocktails from its 154 year history.

The sixteenth edition calendar launch got under way in a trendy Shoreditch hotspot, the rooms nestled between railway arches awash with the brand’s vibrant flavour of red. Julia Fullerton-Batten’s 12 images adorned the walls like huge paintings in a museum, each set above a glass dome-covered podium, displaying the classic cocktail that inspired the image above. When the opportunity arose, we stole a moment to ask the French actress, Eva, what it was like to work with Julia: “It is important to feel loved by the photographer or the director, so you are able to give as much as possible. I felt like Julia really appreciated me. I played several characters and it was fun. I didn’t have to do loads of homework or learn lots of lines, and to be surrounded by passionate people without any pressure was a joy. Truly, Julia was my inspiration.” In response, Julia, visibly touched by her muse’s sentiments, adds: “What was so refreshing with Eva was every time she came on set, she totally performed, knew the story behind the cocktail and it just made my job so much easier.”

The hallmarks of Julia’s brand of photography; unusual locations, creative sets, silver screen-worthy lighting and compositions that are layered with a hint of mystery, made her the perfect match for this high-profile project. “Campari approached me to ask if I wanted to photograph the calendar for 2015 and I was like, ‘yes!’ – I didn’t know who the muse would be, but I was over the moon when I found out that it was Eva, because I didn’t want to work with someone typical. I think Eva has something quite amazing about her. She was the perfect choice for the calendar.”

The German-born photographer, who has also called the USA and England home, was selected from a competitive shortlist and became the first female to get behind the lens of the Campari calendar campaign. So was she able to bring something to the project that her predecessors couldn’t? “I’ve assisted many different photographers, some of them were female and most were males,” Julia explains, “and what I’ve seen in those years was that the actress or model can sometimes be a little uncomfortable, but she’s acting for the photographer. I like to think that Eva and I had a real bond and I still felt that again today; that we had a real connection and I’m wondering if it’s because I’m a woman that she felt completely relaxed. Also, I feel that with male photographers, they often want to bring out a sexuality that can sometimes be forced. I tried to give Eva, although she was acting, the opportunity to act the way she wanted to act, rather than try to tell her how – I gave her quite a lot of creative freedom.”

The team had the joy of Eva’s company for just five days, but whilst the actual shoot was a squeeze, the entire production is said to have taken three-and-a-half months to complete. Renowned for her use of cinematic lighting, Julia was determined to bring her own brand of artistic flair to the set. “There was quite a lot to do in five days, which meant there were a few days where we did three of the shots. With my kind of elaborate lighting, each set-up could take a good six hours. So I brought two teams from London and hired a local team of lighting assistants too, plus we hired a huge truck to come from London with all the lighting gear, because they didn’t have everything we needed in Budapest. While I was shooting on one set, my assistants were busy getting the next set ready, and I was running between the two because I wanted to keep Eva happy and make sure that she wouldn’t be waiting around. So when I was ready, she was ready, which creates more positivity on set.”

Whilst the commercial side of Julia’s work brings home the bacon, the artistic side has taken her name around the world, but which came first? “I started off as an advertising photographer, assisting lots of different photographers, but I got frustrated with all the restrictive layouts. I just didn’t think it was creative enough, and when I did bring my own ideas to set, often they weren’t welcomed. So, in my own time I began shooting my first personal project TeenageStories, that I later realised sub-consciously related to my parents’ divorce, and me growing up as a teenager.” After her parents’ divorce, Julia’s father secured custody of the children, taking them abroad, effectively separating them from their mother. “I was very close to my mother and very suddenly it was as if she wasn’t there anymore, as if she’d died. So 10 or so years on, I was still incredibly upset by certain things. I chose to start therapy and that brought it all out and that’s why a lot of my personal work is semi-autobiographical.”

By 2007 Julia’s personal projects had gained the attention of the photography world, seeing her win handfuls of awards including the highly coveted Fondation HSBC pour la Photographie, which resulted in a book deal and five exhibitions around the world. “To me, that was the first step in being recognised as an art photographer and helped steer me away from the advertising world and into the art world. There are so many commercial photographers who would love to become art photographers, but if you’re a commercial photographer, you’re not taken seriously by the galleries unless you’ve shot a lot of your own projects, because if they’re just looking at your commercial work there’s no deeper meaning behind the images. You’re just expected to just sell the product. The other problem is it’s very hard to find a gallery because they don’t like being approached – they approach you. That’s why I entered, and luckily won, a lot of competitions, so that people would see my name more.”

As well as 2005’s Teenage Stories, Julia secured widespread notoriety with many of her succeeding personal works: School Play in 2007, teenage girls from different cultural backgrounds; In between two years later, the stage between child and womanhood; Awkward, young people in the company of the opposite sex; Mother and Daughters; Unadorned in 2012, a recreation of eighteenth century nude paintings and, in 2013, A testament to love, depicting the consequences of unrequited love. “After Teenage Stories did well in a few competitions, I got approached by an art gallery and once you get approached by one art gallery, you can show your work at Paris Photo and some of the big art shows, like Miami. The ball is rolling then, but it can be a slow process. I would say it’s slightly easier starting the other way around; an art photographer trying to get into commercial photography, because agencies today love it if you’re passionate about your photography and like to use your personal images in their campaigns. However, there is a higher level of competition between these photographers, and there are many talented people out there.”

Although some aspects of commercial shooting arguably lend themselves to the practice of fine art photography, and vice versa, some critics argue that practising in both fields could be a conflict of interest. “Personally, I benefit very much from my involvement in both fine art and commercial photography. I love the fine art photography because it is my creation from start to finish, but I get a great thrill from being involved in a successful commercial shoot. I also find that there is a cross-fertilisation of technical knowledge and creative inspiration from one to the other that benefits my involvement in both genres. Having said that, I quite often have a sense of feeling, and it is only a sense, that collectors of my fine art work would prefer that I were not involved in commercial work. And that art directors think that my involvement with fine art photography would be of detriment to shooting commercials successfully.

Having just been selected to shoot the 2015 Campari Calendar, I will certainly have to revise the second prejudice that I may feel, as I think the fact that I am a fine art photographer definitely played a part in me winning the assignment. In the end, I think that my photographic style penetrates through in the final result. The viewer – fine art or the public – will appreciate it for what it is, whether fine art or an advertisement.”

As Julia suggests, entering competitions is one of the quickest and most rewarding ways to achieve fame. We ask her for her advice, as she now judges dozens of illustrious events, including Sony’s World Photography awards. “When you’re asked to submit a project or series, only send your best images – editing is incredibly important. If you have a weaker image in there, leave it out, just put in the stronger work because the weaker images can bring the whole series down. Also, if you are asked to write something to explain the project, keep it short, interesting and brief, because if it’s too long the judges won’t have time to read it. Finally, I’d say avoid the cliché – don’t put in commercial and wedding photos, put in your own personal photos that you feel strongly about.”

As well as being inundated with commercial shoots, Julia is currently making time for two new personal projects; boys with anorexia and feral children. “The anorexia series is something I feel very passionate about because there’s someone very close to me who suffers with it. However, it’s been very hard to get people to come forward. I approached that subject nearly a year ago and found only one boy. So I did another call out suggesting that I wouldn’t show their faces and offered more money, but I haven’t had many people come forward, so it’s something I’d like to approach in the future. If people are interested, they can contact me through my website. The other project in the works is on children being raised by animals. I’ve found my cast of amazing children and locations, and originally I was meant to start shooting in two weeks time, but I made the decision to research it further, so it’s on hold until June.” And with this comes the answer to ‘highly paid or highly respected’ – innovative art needs time, and Julia isn’t rushing anywhere, except up in our estimations.

Source: Professional Photographer

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