Julia Fullerton-Batten was born in Germany and grew up in the United States and Germany. When she was sixteen, she moved to England. Since then she has travelled extensively throughout the world. These visits provided plenty of picture material as well as an insight into different cultures. After studying photography, she did work experience with Vogue Magazine, London. Then came five years of freelance assisting a wide variety of photographers. At this point she thought it was time to start looking through the camera herself as a professional, so she spent two months travelling in Vietnam. When she returned to London with some interesting still-live observations, she won a number of Awards with these images. This enhanced her marketing efforts and she got her first big commission: to shoot a cigarette campaign in Australia.
Your personal work, advertising, and fashion work blend very well. How do you achieve consistency while working in so many different areas of photography?
‘I think that the lighting techniques and emphasis on color that I use distinguish my photography. As I use similar techniques in most of my personal, advertising and fashion work, I achieve a consistency throughout all genres. As far as lighting is concerned, I have no fixed rules and use different lighting techniques. I frequently mix daylight and flash, and sometimes use up to twenty flash heads on a single shot. I enjoy varying the lighting to achieve uniqueness in the shot. Another of my favorite preoccupations on shoots is color. I choose the colors extremely carefully, in the props, the styling, or even the color of a model’s hair. In this way, I can impart to the scene something distinctive’.
You use non-traditional models for your work. Can you explain your method of “street casting”?
‘I used to approach unknown people on the streets in London and ask them to take part in my photo shoots. There are so many fascinating faces accompanied with wonderful personalities around. The freshness that street casted models have has also benefited my work immeasurably. I now don’t have the time to find the amateur models myself, but I hire a producer to source models for me’.
Where do your ideas come from, and what is your process once you have an idea you want to implement?
‘It could be one small thing that will spark me off, an episode in my daily life, a scene in a film, a painting, or something from a book. I develop the inspiration in my mind and visualise various scenes before proceeding further with the idea or rejecting it. When proceeding with the idea, the production part is just as important as the shoot itself. Firstly, I source the location. This often takes some considerable effort as the right location is important in my work. It’s like choosing the right backdrop in a studio, but far more complicated as it involves outside research and quite a bit of travel.
‘Next, it takes a while to find the right models, narrow them down, and then meet them in person. After that, there are meetings with my stylist who sources the clothes and props: this is something I also do myself. Charity shops are great for this kind of thing. The final stage of preparation is to book assistants, and make-up artists, hire the lighting equipment, and arrange travel details. Often, I will go with my main assistant to the location, where we take snaps, print them out, and I draw out my ideas on them. By the time it comes to the shoot, I know exactly where I want the models to be, how I will light them, and what feeling I want to create in the shot. Of course, I have to be open-minded as sometimes things just donâ€™t feel or look right and I need to make changes on the spot. Once I hired a huge studio in Germany for a shoot, but when we got in it, I just didnâ€™t feel happy with it, and we ended up doing the shoot in a small room adjacent to the studio’.
You spent four years assisting before you were picked up by an agency. How did this experience help you in your career?
‘After I finished my college course, I decided not to do a degree but to become an assistant instead. It was the best choice I could have made. My years as an assistant have been the springboard for my later career successes. I learned a great deal from all the various photographers with whom I worked. They were engaged in a wide cross-section of work: fashion, still-life, cars, portraits. All of them worked in a different way and used different techniques so that every shoot was a new learning process. I made notes, drew lighting diagrams, and kept the polaroids. On the advertising shoots, we then had the luxury of a film test and lighting day, which was great as we were able to experiment. I look back on my assisting days with fond memories. And, of course, I still meet a lot of the photographers that I assisted in all sorts of places’.
You’re known for a series of photos where you put normal sized girls in dwarfed environments. What prompted you to utilize this technique?
‘Firstly, these shots don’t use a technique as such. There is no manipulation of these images. The girls are standing in a real location, one of several model villages dotted throughout Europe. The idea behind this idea was to put teenage girls in an environment in which they had the feeling of power that they so much wished to have at that insecure stage in their development to womanhood. They dwarf their environment, but through their poses and demeanour still show their teenage insecurity’.