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Ostend International Photography Biennale 2023 : Julia Fullerton-Batten


Julia Fullerton-Batten in the Anglican Church : Perfect Symbiosis

From the early days of photography, some photographers deliberately staged scenes, setting themselves apart from the spontaneous nature of snapshots. Did they have more artistic ambitions than their peers? Couldn’t they express themselves through candid shots? Nevertheless, they were often dismissed as failed painters: Oscar Gustave Rejlander, Henry Peach Robinson, Julia Margaret Cameron, Lewis Carroll, later William Mortensen and many others. It is precisely in this terrain that Julia Fullerton-Batten walks in the footsteps of more contemporary colleagues like Gregory Crewdson, Jeff Wall, Erwin Olaf and David LaChapelle, creating her own body of work in an undeniably unique way.


Fullerton-Batten was born in Bremen, Germany. She spent her youth in Germany and the United States, but after her parents’ divorce, she and her siblings moved to the United Kingdom. There, she completed her high school studies and then studied photography. Subsequently, she assisted professional photographers for five years before a first commercial assignment launched her career in 1995, and she gained her first recognition as an art photographer in 2005. For the past 15 years, she has completed 12 projects, including Old Father Thames, a series of photos about the history of the River Thames that is still ongoing. She exhibites worldwide, won numerous awards, and her photographs are held, among others, by the National Portrait Gallery in London.


Julia Fullerton-Batten: “Being half British and residing in the United Kingdom for many years, the framework that the curator of the Biennale proposed to me was simply perfect. The English church in Ostend has been part of the Church of England for just over 150 years: it is a multicultural community that worships in English. Stéphane Verheye selected works from my projects Old Father Thames, Photographie Mon Amour, The Male Body, Looking out from Within, Feral Children, and A Testament to Love.”
The works are presented in large formats in this exceptional church setting, while others are shown in peepholes. Visitors will notice that not only the religiously inspired works, but also the more profane ones perfectly symbiotize with the neo-Gothic architecture of the church.


Indeed, Julia’s photographs, often inspired by cinema, are imbued with an alluring mysticism that urges the viewer to look at them again. And again. And again. Each time, something new emerges from them. The photographer often works with models she discovers on the street, and it shows: she achieves a certain stiffness, even discomfort, which is difficult to achieve with professional models or actors in these photos – which are, by the way, technically perfect. This duality between amateuristic models and technical perfection also plays an important role in the complexity of the “scenes” in her works, which always involve a small army of stylists and set designers, as if they were Hollywood productions. But be careful, behind her sophisticated staging are relevant social observations. And no matter how many layers of makeup she applies to them, they could not erase the emotions and desires of her protagonists, captured in a silent expression like in the works of the old ‘primitive’ Flemish masters.

A must-see exhibition!


International Biennial of Photography, Ostend
September 16 – November 12, 2023

Julia Fullerton-Batten at the Anglican Church
Langestraat 101 Ostend
Tuesday – Saturday 10am – 5:30pm
Sunday 1pm – 5:30pm

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