In this ongoing series, Prestige profiles some of the high-profile, international female artists who will have their work displayed at BAB 2020. Here, we meet UK-based photographer Julia Fullerton-Batten.
Originally from Germany, but now based in the UK, Julia Fullerton-Batten began her professional career with commercial photography assignments, but within a few years she began to gain accolades as a fine-art photographer. At BAB 2020 she’ll be displaying images from her ‘A Testament to Love’ series, on display at the Bangkok Art and Culture Centre (BACC).
Tell us about your photos at BAB 2020, and how the exhibit reflects this year’s theme of ‘Escape Routes’?
The images you see in ‘A Testament to Love’ can be compared to stills from a movie, they capture the moment immediately after the reaction of a woman to the disappointment of yet another experience of unrequited love, and just before she recognizes that she does have the necessary courage, will-power, and wherewithal to ‘escape’ forwards. I set my images against a cinematic background reminiscent of those of the American realist painter Edward Hopper. Hard atmospheric lighting and dominant colours heighten the drama of each setting.
She [the woman in the photo] has that familiar recurring feeling of regret, loneliness and frustration; again, she finds herself searching for a meaning to her life. But this time there is a difference, this time she knows she is not a passive participant in life’s drama, she can and will control her life’s destiny. This empowerment is her escape route, one that now reinforces her state of mind into a different future, one that prepares her for her next challenge and future fulfilment.
Will you be able to be in Thailand at any point during the biennale?
I haven’t been to the [Bangkok Art Biennale] before, and under normal circumstances would be very much looking forward to attending it in person. In addition, the event organisers have generously offered to pay our costs for a 5-night stay in Bangkok. The over-riding concern is, of course, the influence of Covid-19 on travel: both entering Thailand from the UK, and re-entering the UK upon return. Based on the current assessment of Covid-19 risks, Thailand is exempt from the Foreign, Commonwealth & Development Office (FCDO)’s advice against all non-essential international travel, but I would be obliged to quarantine for 14 days upon my return to the UK. And we know how rapidly circumstances can change.
Have you ever exhibited in Southeast Asia before?
No, I have never exhibited in Thailand nor Southeast Asia before. I spent a night in Bangkok several years ago and can still remember very clearly the view from our bedroom window on the 35th floor. I had seen many films of Bangkok and wasn’t disappointed. The vibrancy, atmosphere, and buzz of the city was incredible.
Has the pandemic affected the work you will be exhibiting at BAB 2020?
No, my images for the exhibition had already been printed in London and sent to Thailand.
As a woman artist do you feel your gender identity plays a major role in your art, or do you prefer it to be an issue that doesn’t need to be addressed or discussed?
Men and women photographers may capture photographs which exhibit different nuances and, more especially different genres, but I don’t think we can stereotype specifically fine-art photography based on the photographer being female or male. There have been exhibitions specifically of the fine-art work of female photographers in the past and, no doubt, these will continue as long as there is a rarity of women photographers. However, other than that, I can’t support that an artist’s work should be rewarded or stand out more because of their gender, female or male.
Your photos are stunning. Approximately how long does it take to put these tableaux scenes together, and how long to edit and finesse them afterwards?
I put a lot of effort into my images to get the historical details correct, and then I prepare the story visually, paying attention to the casting, wardrobe, costumes, location, props, etc. Over the years I have also developed and honed my own specific lighting technique which imparts a surreal, cinematic quality to the images. As a consequence of my precise and detailed planning, a project can take me anything from a year to three years to complete. I shoot nearly everything in camera. It is only when I can’t find a suitable elephant or whale to tell the story that I may need to use CGI. My project ‘A Testament To Love’ was all shot in camera, on different locations with different models.
The Bangkok Art Biennale 2020 runs until January 31, 2021. Find out more at bkkartbiennale.com.