French fashion photographer Andy Julia has extracted the high class, antique sensuality from centuries-worth of art and combined it with his modern day urban fashionistas to produce riveting images. His photos are so glamorously vacant and edgy that it's easy to slip through the looking glass into the sexual secrets of his models. We spoke with Julia about the passions and fashions of his modern day and lost eras.
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Sez G: There's a haunting emptiness in your model's expressions. They seem vapid and almost doll-like. How do you coax the model's to let go of their emotions and portray this stark, hollow expression?
Andy Julia: I build a special ambiance every minute I share with the teams I work with. I begin with a simple meeting while playing music from the 80's and 90's underground scenes. This intimates relations with the model, even if it's a woman from a distant eastern land who seems not to have anything to say…
I don't ignore any detail. I want to see and to feel everything that can pass through their mind. In these strange hollow eyes is the abyss of the human soul. The aesthetic is a way to reach those fragile elements. Every woman has something more to give, and most of the time it's not in posing in a "fashion way" that this comes out. They are not simply "clothes holders," and I never treat them like that…so my pictures simply are the result of this philosophy.
Sez G: Your photos are so unsaturated, except for a few striking strokes of color. How much computer retouching do you do to get your images so perfectly punctuated with hues?
Andy Julia: I work a lot in front of my screen; it's a very important step of creation. I determine each chromatic detail that is key to my poetic universe. I can compare it to the work of early photography, when the artist might try some airbrushing, painting or pastel retouches on the light and softness of the skin. Now we work with computer but the goal is the same.
Most of the time I work with numerous layers, black and white, colours, transparency…and all of this create the new picture that I have in my head from the beginning. Working this way is a good way to perceive our own pictures in a deeper way, to extract the purest essence. I prefer to do it myself, because it's when I decide the order and the sense of the picture's story.
Sez G: A lot of your series have an air of romantic nostalgia…there's something of the 20's and 30's mixed in your barely articulated dreamscapes. Where does this inspiration come from within you?
Andy Julia: I think it comes from the numerous books of old photography, painting and sculpture that I collect with an intense obsession. I'm fond of the imagery of these times; it's full of elegance, refinement, modernity and provocation. The school of Vienna created the tone in the beginning of the century, and afterwards, women's silhouettes adopted the beauty codes that rule nowadays.
The times before, especially the 18th and 19th centuries, were full of mysteries. I think it's the mysticism and the physical preciousness of people of this time that captive my attention, and I always try to explore the vastness of my fascination for it.
Sez G: The set for the Fanny Liautard black and white shoot is extraordinary. Where were you?
Andy Julia: The place is located in Compiegne near Paris. It's an incredible place. Napoleon III made it as a gift for his lover, as a copy of the Imperial Theatre of Versailles, but this one was never finished. The materials of sticks, stones and woods are just painted in white; there is no gold, no colours, no life in fact. It will never be finished, it's too expensive.
I enjoyed the slightness and purity of the walls. We were alone there on closing day of the theatre and the ambiance was quite emotional.
Sez G: Your models always have very creative, perfectly executed make-up on. Do you have a regular make-up artist? A stylist? How many people are on set with you during a typical shoot?
Andy Julia: Yes, for the makeup, I work with a fairy-fingered magician, Marielle, who works at the opera and in the fashion industry in the same time. She takes interesting elements from each universe to create her own style.
Fashion photography is team work, and you have to create a good team before creating a good picture story….most of the time I work surrounded by 10 people, or even 20 on an important shoot that require a lot of models and infrastructure, like decoration, light assistance or night shootings.
I work with many fashion stylists who create their own themes by mixing materials. They have different trademarks, which is so important, because it gives a weight to the story when it is published in a magazine. Fashion is an industry before an art.
Sez G: How interested are you in fashion design?
Andy Julia: I'm very interested by fashion, when fashion has something to say. I prefer the designers that have a particular and personal style even if it's not those who generate the biggest benefits. For example, I love Alexander McQueen and his consistent rediscovery of the aristocratic elegance. Raf Simons for his sensitive universe of cursed forgotten men, Balenciaga, and the incarnation of the French class… and many other designers like Antonio Berardi, Vivienne Westwood, John Galliano, etc.
I often buy vintage clothes. I appreciate the beginning of the century…the 40's,accessories, shoes and jewels, the clothes in silk, satin, stone decorated… I always die for old laces from the disappeared libertines from the end of the 19th decadent century.
Sez G: How long were you an assistant to Willy Vanderperre? What are some of the most valuable things you learned from your time with him?
Andy Julia: I worked at Willy Vanderperre for 2 years, and it was when I learned how to be a fashion photographer. Willy is an extraordinary artist, full of sense with a real gift for catching the feeling of melancholy. I learned to use HMI's continuous light, because he always worked with it. This is a strong, cold light, that puts into the picture a deep feeling of high class cinematography.
Sez G: Your book Libertine came out last spring. Congratulations! Tell me how the collection came together.
Andy Julia: I worked on those pictures for a long time. Everything started from a poem I wrote few years ago. The shootings were planned following the encounters, desires and contacts I had the world around. Most of the pictures were shot at my home, which is like a Boudoir… you can stay to read, or to have a romantic dinner and spend hours to love or talk… those photographs are directly extracted from my real life.
Sez G: What can we find in your personal work that we don't see in your freelance and fashion work?
Andy Julia: We can see big grain, intense mysterious black and white ambiances and intimate sexual evocations.
Sez G: C'est magnifique! What's next for you?
Andy Julia: I'm preparing a story inspired by the ambiance of the pre-Raphaelite painters, like the works of John William Waterhouse's works. I want to explore the imagery of the savage nymphs and beauty from the antiquity. I will research something our modern society lost for decades and decades which is present at the heart of those fixed images.
To be a spectator of time.
To learn more about Andy Julia visit AndyJulia.com.
Andy Julia - by Sez G.