Julia Scott Green was formally trained in photography at the Queensland College of Art, and currently practices across multiple platforms as an educator, a commercial photographer and an artist. Her interests lie in researching interpersonal relationships, artistic explorations of emotions, and the affective sciences more broadly.
From 10 July to 16 July Julia showed us her work and process on our Instagram @inresidence_ari
Interviewed by Miranda Hine
MH: What is it about light and shadow play that attracts you?
JSG: So much! Photography is all about paying attention to light.
I’m really attracted to the quality of natural, reflected sunlight. I like how it’s always moving in relation to time, as well as in relation to physical objects. This movement gives the light an almost sentient quality. In the case of my installation ‘Sunroom’, I recreated this movement of natural light play in a constructed exhibition context. This was a really interesting ‘ah ha’ moment for me - the work strongly referenced the phenomena of the mirage. Ideas relating to illusion are something I’ve been thinking about for a long time.
Although light is what makes the world visible to us, it also has the capacity to deceive us - both the power and limitations of our visual perception are very interesting to me. I think James Turrell’s discussions about light are relevant here - he has referred to research in quantum physics which suggests light ‘knows’ when you’re looking at it. This sort of stuff really excites me.
MH: Why are you inclined to document that often transient moment rather than just watching it pass?
JSG: This has a lot to do with my attraction to the quality of light - which is determined by temporary states of sunlight more often than not. But beyond lighting, a photograph usually happens because I’ve tuned into a) my surroundings, and b) what in my surroundings is grabbing my attention. This recipe often cooks up some interesting imagery, but it’s also a great exercise in awareness - so I guess I’m inclined to document something because I’m motivated by this process, often more so than the results.
In saying that, every photograph is also born from a desire to facilitate memory. I think this describes why photography, broadly speaking, has captivated us so intensely. We are all trying to preserve our fleeting experiences in one way or another.
MH: Several of your instagram photos are taken on your iPhone. How important has the mobility and accessibility of smart phones been for you personally in influencing your process of working?
JSG: The smartphone camera has been a great friend to me; it’s always by my side when I need it. My iPhone photos perform the same role as sketches, or notes. More and more these are snowballing into larger ideas and projects. I used to follow a similar process with film photography - for years I would shoot regularly on a 35mm film camera, and then upload these to a Tumblr feed (a skeleton of this can be found here). The iPhone has radically transformed the speed of this process for me, which essentially allows me to think faster.
MH: You included some influential photographers in your takeover series, one of whom was Rinko Kawauchi, whose photobook shows images taken on film over a period of fifteen years. You mentioned the importance of quality over quantity in Kawauchi’s photographic process. Can you talk a little about that and why you think it’s important?
JSG: Well, although my previous answer sings the praises of speedy technology, there are also negative side effects to the rapid exchange of images we are all now engaged in. In short, we are bombarded by hundreds (sometimes thousands) of images everyday. This has very real, tangible effects on how we feel / think / behave. Beyond my studies in photography at QCA, I’ve also taught visual communication courses at UQ, so I’m really in the trenches with these issues. The way we create, circulate and consume images is a pressing concern for photographers to grapple with, let alone the general public. Just like the clothes we wear or the food we eat, I think it’s important that we distribute and consume imagery in a mindful way. Photographers like Kawauchi, who are engaged in slow production techniques in the 21st century are really tackling this head on.
MH: For some reason, your photographs make me think of those European painters who tried and failed to capture the Australian landscape using the colour palettes and light depiction techniques they had learnt in Europe. I can see in your photos the antithesis of that – where a familiar sense of place is indicated purely through abstract plays of light like the twinkling sun through blurred eucalypt leaves. How different do you think your work would be if you were living, for example, in Europe?
JSG: I am really chuffed that you think my images convey a strong sense of place. The light and colour in Australia and the Asia Pacific region are definitely important to my work. As a kid growing up between Queensland and Port Moresby, I was greatly impacted by how beautiful this part of the world is. I’ve carried this sense of awe with me right through to my adult image making.
I lived in London for a couple of years, and I remember feeling really rattled by the desaturated, hazy light there. Taking photos in London felt like trying to get blood from a stone. Coming home was amazing - I am more aware than ever of how important the quality of light is to my practice.
MH: Speaking of both painting and Eucalypt leaves, one of your posts in the takeover showed a painting in progress of just such a leaf. How does painting enter your practice?
JSG: I follow contemporary painting pretty closely, and I have always been really attracted to the process of painting. I like that the execution of a painting generally takes a lot longer than a photograph, and so fewer of them are made. It’s nice to know that humans have always made marks with pigment, and that this behaviour has survived. In terms of how it enters my practice - I’m mainly interested in the way painting helped to develop our understanding of abstract communication. I think of painting as having a close relationship to music. Lighting can be as dynamic and lyrical as paint or sound, so I am often taking cues from these other disciplines to inform how I use light in current work.
MH: I’d love to find out a little more about your series And Frazer Makes Five, which also integrates paint in a different way. Again, this seems to be very much rooted in place – PNG in this case. How and why did the series come into being?
JSG: This series was born out of images I shot during a family trip to my Dad’s childhood home in Rabaul, PNG. I should mention here that I also lived in PNG on and off while I was growing up, so this trip involved visiting important sites of my own childhood as well. I was 21 at the time of our travels, and this marked 10 years since I had left PNG. And Frazer Makes Five explored ideas relating to family relationships, cultural identity and belonging. The title was borrowed from a caption given to the first photograph taken of my youngest brother when he was born. I thought this was poignant after learning that my Dad’s hometown in Rabaul had been destroyed by volcanic eruptions that same year.
After my family trip to Rabaul in 2010, I went on to produce a body of work called 'And Frazer Makes Five' - here is an image from the series. Each one is a digital collage of photographs I shot on the trip, scanned acrylic paint, and hand cut portrait silhouettes from archival family photos. The aesthetics of 'And Frazer Makes Five' were influenced greatly by the work of Gerhard Richter and Martin Smith. #inresidencetakeover
MH: As images of people don’t feature heavily in your photographic work, what was behind your choice to end your takeover with an image of your grandmother, Bettina?
JSG: This image is the first portrait I shot of my grandmother after she and my grandfather moved into an aged care facility. I was really confronted by the upheaval of their life, and so I started developing a photographic project around their new life in the facility as way to better understand this process. So far the project has been really special, inspiring lots of discussion between my grandmother and I. She has been very generous in sharing important knowledge with me about our family history. I hope to keep this project going long term, with the intention of eventually publishing a photobook of images from it.
MH: What’s next for you?
JSG: Aside from chipping away at the photographic project on my grandparents, I’ve been offered a residency this September with House Conspiracy, and I’ll be using my time there to develop my installation work. I’ll be sharing my work-in-progress during the residency through my Instagram feed, so expect a lot more light play from me!
Julia Scott Green took over the In Residence Instagram 10-16 July, 2017.
Keep up with our Instagram Takeovers, news, events and new posts via @inresidence_ari