Author, Helen Tootsi

@helentootsi, Staff Writer
Los Angeles

29. 08. 16

Intense and socially critical, Fullerton - Batten let's the mind float on the hazy edge of brutally honest yet twisted cinematic subconscious of modern world. Her imagery and visualisation of subject matter lingers in the mood and provocation of breaking the norms. She cuts through the trivial whilst eloquently channeling the haunting reality.

PhotographyFine ArtPortraitArt DirectionDocumentarySocialManipulation

By selecting projects, settings, poses, models’ demeanours and mood through lighting to create images that provoke a reaction from the viewer, Julia Fullerton-Batten creates fine art photography that makes the mind drift. Her poised way of carrying the emotion through her imagery simply gets the curious eye to dig a little deeper and notice the layers of social and moral shades that can easily be missed at a glance. Call me crazy, but for me, Fullerton-Batten creates cinematic fairy tales of modern world. The same way as fairy tale was never all about happy endings and butterflies, her work carries the dark undertone of subjects she’s working on.
Hans Christian Andersen killed The Little Match Girl, he told the story of a modern world’s superficiality and the inner fears of one being. What Fullerton-Batten is doing in images leaves the audience with eerie recognition of buried dreams, pulls on the strings of one's conscious by making them snap out of the delusion of ideal world. She infuses it with a cold refreshing breeze of icy air. Yet by doing that, she uses colours schemes of each subject in the manner that gives hope to that particular theme. For someone who had to wait for her father to clean up a makeshift darkroom in the family’s bathroom before having pre-bed bath, photography has always been part of her blood.
She is one of the most interesting fine art photographers to keep an eye on.  With her commissioned work living its own life, she often compares her creative process to being an artist with a blank canvas or a sculptor standing in front of a block of marble. They both end up with a work of art of their own creation. She’s playing with disproportions and dreamlike spaces, often distorting the reality to see the deeper nuances of its presence.   Hauntingly mysterious, surreal and gorgeous, she keeps creating imagery that carries a story, completely immersed in our social subconscious.
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The Interview

Your first more widely known breakthrough project was “Teenage Stories”

Could you tell me what was the inspiration behind it?

‘Teenage Stories’ contains many episodes from my own experiences as a teenager, and is very semi-autobiographical in nature. It narrates the real-life experiences which a teenager experiences from pre-pubescence through the next few years in adjusting to emotional and physical changes; also to the adjustments she makes with regards to her tenuous position in society. I placed my models as giantesses in model villages to emphasise these adjustments and the challenges they are facing.

Jumping to 2015, you came out with a project Feral Children. You are telling the stories through rather dark perspective, was that always intentional or changed in the process?

My inspiration for Feral Children, 2015’ was the biography of Marina Chapman (‘The Girl with no Name’). Marina was 5-years old when she was kidnapped and abandoned in a Colombian jungle. She was ‘rescued’ five years later. During her stay in the jungle she lived in the company of a group of tiny capuchin monkeys. From the monkeys she learned survival skills and entered into a close relationship with them, especially the younger ones.

I was appalled and at the same time intrigued by this story of a toddler surviving in the wild. It inspired me to search for other cases of feral children and I found that there were quite a number of them. Cases resulted from children being lost, others were snatched by wild animals, and yet others were left or neglected by their parents. My maternal instinct went into overdrive when I considered how these babies, toddlers and young people experienced their lives alone or in the company of wild animals. They must have shown great fortitude to survive loneliness, weather, hunger, illness, etc. In fact, it completely overwhelmed the boundaries of my comprehension. I reason that such cases are still possible today and it became my desire in shooting this project to help raise public awareness that similar cases may be happening down the road or around the corner, as has indeed been the case. I would be proud if my images cause people to reflect on past stories and prevent the occurrence of new ones.


You were born in Germany and spent some time in the US. How do you see it having modelled your handwriting into the one it is today?

As well as the countries in which I lived as a child, my parentage also has played a significant part in my life and heritage. My mother is German, my father English. They have different temperaments, cultural backgrounds and interests. We moved to the USA when I was two and lived there for seven years. My parents divorced when I was sixteen and we moved to England with our father.

As an assistant I took six week long breaks and travelled extensively in, what were at that time, exotic countries – Mexico, Peru, India, China, and Vietnam. Without a doubt the mixed nationality of my parents and the countries in which I spent my childhood years at an impressionable age as well as my travelling have all influenced me, who I am today, my creativity, my work ethic, and the content of my photographic projects.

Can you tell me about your latest project on the subject of young women being involved in the sex industry? Why this topic?

My newest fine-art project, ‘The Act’, deals with women engaged in the sex industry. For some time, I had been intrigued by the fact that women, many highly educated, choose to earn their living by exploiting their bodies as escorts, porn and webcam actresses, strippers and lap dancers. Among my models I also included a Ping-Pong girl, a dominatrix, a pole dancer and aerial artistes as well as a transsexual. Although not engaged in the physical act itself, these women do use nudity and their physical attributes to make their living. It is a fairly controversial subject, some feminists want to ban the more extreme activities, others say that it is a woman’s freedom to choose whatever career she wants. In addition, it is not a new subject matter for photographers, so I wanted to give it a different slant, avoid the overtly salacious approach and make the images truly art.


As well as a body of art I was interested to find out the motivation of the women to choose this ‘career’ path and if they were happy having done so. I ‘interviewed’ my models to get their stories and presented these in text and video form. I intend also to publish a book of the results. I created mini-theatrical sets as backdrops relevant to each woman’s profession. I also mounted the sets on a stage in order to heighten the impression that they are ‘performers in real life’. I lit the scenes in such a way as to heighten further the enigmatic nature of their acts, representing a split second filmic representation of their lives.

The women have chosen a way of life that many would consider foolhardy, others perhaps, brave. My models have entered their career by chance, some claim through financial necessity, but with their eyes open to the many varied dangers to them, physically, emotionally and socially. With one exception, a woman who spent seven years in the business but has now chosen to leave it, all of the others claim to be happy with their lives and what they are doing to earn a living.

Why photography?

My father is a keen amateur photographer. His interest in photography began when my elder sister was born. He wanted to capture our progress as we grew up, but soon got just as interested in the art of photography. He has always been interested in street photography and would take his camera, often two cameras – one for black and white, the other for colour transparencies –with him on walks, family excursions and business trips in Japan. He had his own makeshift darkroom and we children often had to wait for the bath to be emptied of B&W prints he was rinsing before we could have our pre-bedtime bath. When I’d finished secondary school and the time had come to make a career decision, it seemed natural for me to decide that I wanted to make photography my career.

What is the most important thing to you as an artist? What is the message you would like your work to carry and bring across?

The most important thing for me as a fine-art photographer is that the viewer regards my creation as a work of art, appreciating the image as they would a painting. The next important thing is that I’ve been able to impart the message that is symbolised in my image, causing the viewer to think, then reflect on what they have seen.