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INTERVIEW: Julia Fullerton-Batten, Curator of 2020 Student Awards

6 February 2020

Student Awards Logo 2020 small


Julia Fullerton-Batten's distinctive style has really come to fruition of late, with her most recent short films, Old Father Thames and 1814 Frost Fair.  We chatted to Julia to find out more about her extensive career and how entering awards has given her inspirational work the exposure it deserves.

OldFatherThames Tower Bridge

© Julia Fullerton-Batten


What inspired you to get into photography? How has your style developed?

From a very young age I was aware of my father taking photographs and was intrigued by them! We lived in Pennsylvania and he would frequently disappear to New York at weekends or business trips to Japan and come back with photos he’d taken. When the time came to choose a career, I had only one thing in my mind- to become a photographer. Naively, back then, I didn't even know you could make a living being a professional photographer! I just went with my instincts and passion.

After studying photography, I became a freelance assistant, it lasted five long years. I assisted many different professional photographers taking notes the whole time. I learned a lot during those years and started off my career with a good basis of both technical and practical aspects of photography.

My career as a fine-art photographer started with small projects of me and my camera with a street cast model on interesting locations. I had very little other equipment other than my 5x4 camera and minimal lighting. Now I shoot with close to 100 people on set, extensive lighting setups and at more extravagant locations. My style has developed accordingly in all aspects, especially my use of very complicated lighting.



© Julia Fullerton-Batten


As a multi award winner, can you talk about any recent Awards you have won, what they have done for your career and the importance of entering?

As soon as I set off on the path to become a professional photographer, I honed the talent that I thought I had in me, shot continuously, maintained an up-to-date portfolio and entered competitions, especially the AOP Awards. In 1998 I had a number of images that were successful in the AOP Assistants Awards, one award included having one of them on the front cover of the book for the Awards that year.

Many art-buyers were at the Awards looking for new talent and I was approached by a German agent who subsequently represented me for many years. I still enter the Professional awards every year…..

By winning another competition, the ‘HSBC award’, I had 5 exhibitions in Europe and NY, as well as a book published.

Recently I directed and produced my own short film for my ‘1814 Frost Fair’ photo shoot of my ‘Old Father Thames’ project. I have entered the film into a number of festivals and have already won awards with it; the stills have also garnered significant recognition.


1814 Frost Fair Armwrestling

© Julia Fullerton-Batten


You successfully combine fine art with shooting for commercial clients. Can you talk about the challenges of this if there have been any? What advice would you give to other photographers wanting the same diversity in their practice.

Nowadays creatives often come to me now for my recognised style. It is sometimes the stylised look that they want, other times is a complicated technical shoot that they know I can achieve. On other occasions the idea that they have needs spicing up a bit and my style of lighting does the trick.

My advice is that you stick to the style you have developed, don’t be influenced by other styles and try to imitate them. It is very important to stay open minded during the shoot to other ways of presenting things. I sometimes find that clients don't always want the look I’m suggesting, and I acquiesce to their wishes - at the end of the day they are my client and I need to fulfill their wishes. However, when everyone is happy, the project is signed off and there is still time I’ll shoot my version to see what it looks like in comparison.

Always put your own personal work in your portfolio. Clients don't really want to see what you have done on other commissions but add them at the back as a thumbnail page so that you can reassure them that you have shot other commercial work.


TateBritain Flooding

© Julia Fullerton-Batten


As curator of the Student Awards people category what in your opinion makes for an Award-winning image? What would your advice be those entering this category?

I approach all images with an open unbiased mind. I look for images that appear to me to feel fresh and different, standing out from the others. I need to feel excited when I see it. It is a very self-centred appreciation based on visual and emotional content and not at all on technical perfection.

I can always sense when a young photographer is forging their own path, not following a trend but making and developing their own trend. This was always important to me and I commend it to be different and original. Be passionate about your photography, shoot from your heart, avoid shooting what you think other people want to see, especially not judges. Don't feel being a good photographer is difficult or complicated, otherwise you may end up doing nothing at all. Follow your instincts.


Tim Andrews 

© Julia Fullerton-Batten


What’s next for you?

I am working on two new personal fine-art projects; on one of them I’ve just started on the production stage. I always have a few magazine interviews to deal with and a forthcoming TED-style talk for students in preparation.


JFullertonBatten SeemaKennedy

© Julia Fullerton-Batten


Find more information on the Student Awards 2020 call for entries here


See more of Julia's work in Find


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