Rfotofolio is pleased to share the work of photographer Julie Meridian.
Would you please tell us a little about yourself?
I think that I’ve always been an artist, ever since the day that I first held a crayon. Art is a natural and necessary creative pursuit for me, the intuitive way that I perceive the world and reconcile its limitless possibilities with my own fleeting and finite existence.
Drawing is really my first love – I love the directness and immediacy of drawing – the way that so much can be expressed so simply, with just a single line, just pencil and paper. I’m also a collector of natural objects and certain kinds of worn and mundane artifacts – I like to take them outside of their usual reference points of time, place and scale and combine them in new contexts.
In my career, I’ve worked as an art teacher and have led many workshops for children, parents, and teachers. I’ve also done some graphic design and illustration. In recent years I’ve had the luxury of focusing on my personal fine art pursuits, including an exploration of photography, an entirely self-taught medium.
My process is rather primitive. I use an old 35mm camera and I work with morning light in an east window. I place a piece of paper on the floor or in the window as a background. Then I place an object in the light and begin to experiment, using a variety of props to alter the fall of light and shadow within my image. Sometimes I use layers of scratched Plexiglas or acetate to add another level of drawing to the image. I work quickly as the light moves, engaged in a kind of improvisational choreography between object, camera, and light.
Which photographers and other artists work do you admire?
Olivia Parker was an early inspiration to me, especially her book Weighing the Planets, a lyrical visual language of shadows and collage. But I find inspiration in the work of all kinds of artists and all kinds of media – everything from paintings to work in glass, wood, metal, and ceramics. I’m also inspired by words, those ephemeral, intangible vessels of meaning .
Please tell us about an image (not your own) that has stayed with you overtime?
End Game, from Olivia Parker’s series Weighing the Planets, was the first photograph that I ever purchased and I couldn’t believe that I could possess such a mysterious and magical thing. It’s a deceptively simple image: three weathered shells on a piece of tattered paper, with a few sticks that might be part of some sort of game. But the image is bathed in wavering light and shadows that seem to evoke the rhythms of the sea. There is also a projection of a wheel-like shadow, perhaps a trace of an ancient artifact from the puzzling and secret world beyond the photograph. With a few very simple elements, Olivia has gone beyond documentation to explore meaning, inventing a world where shells and shadows are part of a mysterious visual language and time is forever lost.
How did your personal style evolve?
My personal style has evolved from my attraction to nature’s cycles of life and death and to the ways that we attempt to collect, name, define, categorize, measure, and preserve what is essentially transient and intangible. My quest is to photograph not what I see, but what I imagine – a collage of constantly shifting layers of sensory input, memory, grief and wonder.
What challenges do you face as a photographer?
The challenge that most intrigues me is how to use a tool that records only what it sees to capture an interior realm that exists only in my imagination. The photographs are mere approximations, but the process is one of endless reflection and discovery. Another challenge, of course, is the variability of natural light. On many days it’s cloudy here in Chicago, and even on bright, sunny days the light is constantly changing. I have become acutely attuned to the passage of light in moments, hours, days and seasons, and this sensitivity is part of the wonder and the surprise, part of the pleasure that I get from doing this work.
Please tell us about your workspace.
My studio is on the 3rd floor of my home and is filled with my collection of natural objects: leaves, seed pods, feathers, nests, shells, bones, insects . . . . I also have a collection of dead birds that I keep in the freezer. Another treasure is a botanical journal of pressed wildflowers collected in 1934 (see Columbine in Specimens series). Recently, I’ve been collecting tools of measurement, including sand timers and old scales – poignant reminders of the futility of holding time (see Past, Present, Future 1 and Holding Time 2 in Traces series).
How do you over come a creative block?
If I live ten lifetimes, I could never photograph all the objects in my collection. Even a single object offers infinite possibilities for light, composition, viewpoint, and context (see many Nautilus Shell variations in Specimens series and Traces series). If that’s not enough, a walk outside my door usually leads to other wonders: a curled leaf, a butterfly wing, a fleeting shadow. Or I might descend into the basement realm, where my son Benn, a sculptor, stores some of his vast collection of rusty implements and odd artifacts. We share a passion for the marvelous in the mundane, and often exchange objects of inspiration with each other.
Would you please share with us your editing process.
When I’m working with my camera in my little patch of sunlight by the window, I give myself permission to experiment in a very spontaneous, non-judgmental way. My editing process begins much later and can be quite ruthless, as I choose images to print. Then, even after they’re printed, I often eliminate images later on. But I would say that the primary criterion for me is an element of mystery in the image.
How important is the creative community to your art?
A creative community is a great source of sustenance for me. My immediate family includes another artist and a musician, and I’m fortunate to live in an area with many artists, writers, filmmakers, and musicians. Plus, I keep in touch with other artist-friends online. I also consider artists and writers that I know only through their exhibits or books to be part of my creative community.
Is there another type of photography or subject matter you would like tackle?
I’m just beginning to explore possibilities for making images of imaginary machines: part poetry, part nature, part mechanical. I’m also intrigued with the illusion projected by a camera obscura – literally an image composed only of light. And I’d like to explore multi-media possibilities, perhaps combining photography with glass or metal, perhaps collaborating with other artists.
Thank you Julie for sharing your work and your words.
To learn more about Julie Meridian please visit her site. Julie Meridian
To learn more about Olivia Parker please visit her site. Olivia Parker