TIFA 2021 Interview with Julia Wimmerlin
1st Place winner in Fine Art, Professional, “Fresco”
Q: Tell us a bit about your background? How did you discover your love for photography?
I held my first camera when I was 34 years old, until then my professional life was all about marketing. My husband was sent on a job assignment to Japan and that absolutely different world required being recorded. I bought my first DSLR, hired a teacher to explain the photography basics and could not stop since. At the beginning I would photograph absolutely everything. I was not coming from the position of an artist who tries to create and show his own world. I was in an absolute admiration of the fact that I could record a physical proof of fleeting beauty and may be show my perception of what I see. And I saw beauty in everything, literally. I remember taking photos of beautiful trash in Japan that I can nearly make a series from. We then moved to the Philippines where I could no longer have my marketing practice, so I had time to concentrate on photography. The rest was just trying to narrow down what I love photographing most.
Q: What was your last work and how did the initial spark of inspiration come about?
My last creative project has received Bronze at TIFA 2021 People/Self-portrait and it was about travel freedom during the pandemic. Originally a travel photographer, I was unable to travel for 2 years so it pushed me to search for another subject and I turned to Fine Art and creative portraiture. The project was aiming to show that prisoner feeling and desire to breakthrough when none of us could travel. It was about observing nature without being able to be part of it, about social deprivation and social responsibility.
Q: You were awarded TIFA 2021 Fine Art Photographer of the Year for your dream-like work, Fresco. How did the idea for this project come about? What is the most notable memory that you lived through during this project?
2021 was a year of a steep learning curve for me in creative photography. I realized that great masters of photography both classical and contemporary were getting a lot of inspiration from classical art. I spent quite some time looking at different artworks online and in the art books. Church ceiling frescos made me think about the swimming people seen from the bottom of the pool or deeper sea. As a diver I could have shot it underwater but travel restrictions made me decide on the underwater studio instead.
The key was finding the right model and my biggest concern was hair length. My idea could only work with very very long hair. Mariya Andriichuk is a colleague – a great photographer from Kyiv, Ukraine – who has the longest hair amongst people I know. I could not have been happier when she agreed to perform on the other side of the lens.
Q: This dreamy series looks like a Renaissance painting – can you tell us a bit more about the technology behind making the photograph look like this?
The painting feeling mostly comes from water itself being a very soft filter and caustic effects of enveloped light reflected by a curved water surface. Other tools include usage of coloured light and work with colours in post-production.
Q: What genre do you enjoy creating in the most and why?
My photography is very diverse because I get easily bored with one subject. I adapt to where I currently live whilst trying to stick to my main interests, mixing opportunism with deep love and fascination. The main topic that I will always photograph are animals. When I can’t travel to their natural habitat I will search for them in the zoos, rehabilitation centers etc. When I can’t travel anywhere I will photograph any of my four pets – a Sphynx cat, a Maine Coon cat, a Savannah cat or an Australian Shepherd dog. Travel photography is often a tool I use to get to either the animals I want to photograph or people and customs that interest me. The rest is just a visual diary of what I see. FIne Art is something I started developing much later and am focusing on now.
When it comes to animals I’m less of a documentary photographer and more of a fine art dreamer. Oftentimes when I look at my friends’ kids I get mesmerized by how sometimes they resemble their parents and yet are so uniquely different. I guess I project the same fascination on animals. I see how humans and animals are alike being all totally different. I tend to notice and photograph emotional moments when you can nearly replace this animal with a human and the emotions will stay authentic.
Often, we love what we understand and can relate to. I believe part of the reasons why we love animals is because they remind us of ourselves. When we observe animals, we can recognize in an exaggerated and nearly comical way our emotions, behaviors and similar life situations. A lot of people enjoy photographing animals. With a bit of technical knowledge and luck it’s rather easy to get a good clear shot – portrait or in action. At the same time when we scroll down the “Animal” section feed we stop and look at very few. It is my belief that above all the technical perfection we react to emotions or to rare moments.
Q: What does winning this award mean to you?
This award is my biggest award to-date and it means that I found my new subject – creative fine art projects. With a lot of travel I’ve never really had time to plan and execute such projects. So the combination of freed time and this recognition give me an enormous amount of motivation to continue.
Q: What would be your dream project in photography if there would be no budget limits and you could travel anywhere, photograph anything/anyone?
I would create a creative project around endangered animals with the aim to raise awareness about our lifestyle choices and minimal shifts in them that could greatly contribute to their conservation.
Q: What would be the one advice you would give to novice photographers?
Stay curious and never stop to experiment.
Q: Are you working on something new right now? Can you tell us a little bit about it?
I started photography 10 years ago in Japan. I’ve lived in different countries since, changing my shooting subjects and my shooting style. Last 2 years of travel restrictions prompted me to revise what I was doing and how I was doing it. I decided to creatively revisit places where I lived and photographed, making it a project about being a stranger and seeing light. THe first part of this project currently on-going is about Japan.