Looking Out from Within
COVID-19. Time stands still for most of us. It is a sensitive time, we all feel vulnerable and anxious. Many self-isolate.
During the days prior to the pandemic I was ultra-busy planning a photographic shoot with a large team of people, assistants, stylists, hair and make-up team, prop stylists, set designers etc. and was in-line for a couple of jobs. Suddenly, everything stopped. The assignments were cancelled and I had to postpone my project two days before the shoot as the risk appeared too great.
I felt numb but I knew that I couldn’t stand around and do nothing, I decided to document today’s existence as lived now by many people. I chose to capture them in their lockdown isolation, effectively imprisoned behind the windows of their homes looking out onto a different desolate world. I advertised my idea via social media and the local press in my home area of West London. The response was enormous. I even got responses from people living outside London expressing interest in taking part.
For the past few weeks, every three days or so, I have photographed people in my area of West London in self-isolation at home. People participate so enthusiastically that I feel I am giving them something to look forward to and break the monotony of their current existence.
Once somebody expresses interest to participate we make contact via email and phone to discuss details of the shoot and ideas for clothing as well as to fix a date and time for the set up. I shoot in the evening for the twilight feel, Thursdays are special as I can join with them in our clapping tribute to our precious NHS.
I recce their home before the shoot to get an idea of the setting, angles, etc. I restrict all journeys and times to stay within the Government guidelines. No physical contact is made. They stand at their windows and we communicate through the window with hand signals or by phone. Everything is discussed prior to the shoot; the type of masks and wardrobe that can be anything from nightgowns to funky or formal dress worn especially for the photo shoot. My twelve year-old son Finn helps me carry the lighting. We set it up and a few poses later the shoot is over. I also interview each person I photograph in an informal way.
This might only be a mini-project but in my eyes a very important one for posterity. At the same time it is helping to keep me sane in this exceptional and disturbing phase of our lives. And I find it extremely rewarding as I am enjoying meeting people who, without doubt, I would never ever have met before. They cover the entire spectrum of society and occupations which, in itself, has been a fascination to me. I am also re-learning how to take pictures in a simpler way without a large crew!
I have not yet decided what to do with the resulting images but whatever it will be it will provide an intimate insight into the lives of all those who will have taken part during this macabre time during which, sadly, so many did not live to see the end of it!
Julia Fullerton-Batten is a worldwide acclaimed and exhibited fine-art photographer. Her body of work now encompasses twelve major projects spanning a decade of engagement in the field. Julia admits to a pronounced semi-autobiographical influence in much of her earlier work, often falling back on recollections of her own early and teenage years, living in Germany, the USA and the UK, her parent’s divorce, and her own early relationships. Her more recent projects consider social issues, frequently covering controversial subject matter.
Julia’s use of unusual locations, highly creative settings, street-cast models, accented with cinematic lighting are hallmarks of her very distinctive style of photography. She insinuates visual tensions in her images, and imbues them with a hint of mystery, which combine to tease the viewer to re-examine the picture, each time seeing more content and finding a deeper meaning. These distinctive qualities have established enthusiasts for her work worldwide and at all ends of the cultural spectrum, from casual viewers to connoisseurs of fine-art photography.
Fullerton-Batten has won countless awards for both her commercial and fine-art work, and is a Hasselblad Master. She was commissioned by The National Portrait Gallery in London to shoot portraits of leading people in the UK National Health Service. These are now held there in a permanent collection. Other images are also in permanent collection at the Musée de l’Elysée, Lausanne, Switzerland. She is widely interviewed about her projects by professional photographic magazines from around the world and is sought after as a speaker at international events and as a judge for prestigious international photographic competitions.
Julia lives in London with her husband and two young boys.
Published on February 9, 2021.