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Art & Life with Julia Bennett

Today we’d like to introduce you to Julia Bennett.

Julia, please kick things off for us by telling us about yourself and your journey so far.
I grew up in suburban Philadelphia and spent most of my childhood barefoot in woods and creeks. My first introduction to photography was in my high school darkroom. Even though digital was well on its way to industry domination, I feel very lucky to have been taught the ways of analog black and white film development and processing first. The tactile nature of mixing chemistry, the solitude of the darkroom, the slowness of the process – I was hooked. Although I went on to study Marine Science at university, I maintained a steady enrollment in photography courses as a compliment to the intensity of my maths and science studies.

Eventually, my scientific and artistic practices merged, each informing the other, as I began photographing in scientific labs using microscopes. That marriage has persisted, and my work from that point on has been focused on intersections between science, visual art, and the contemporary social landscape, exploring how those intersections influence our understanding of a natural world in transition. I still shoot on film and maintain that the time and focus it takes to make analog photographs has made me a better, more intentional artist.

Can you give our readers some background on your art?
In short, I photograph to ask questions rather than provide answers. But the execution of that task has taken many different forms recently in part due to changes in my own physical environment. Generally speaking, I’m interested in investigating systems rather than sites although, I’ve called four different states home in the last five years, so it’s impossible for that to not affect the work I make.

Currently, I live in a large urban city for the first time in my life, so what I’m drawn to and inspired by is all new to me. There is a certain fascinating strangeness to the way humans interact with the landscape in Southern California which is rooted in the population surges of the Gold Rush era and the resulting decades of fraught politics over land and water use. How we have manipulated the land, and how the land has resisted that manipulation in ways big and small is what I’m primarily interested in capturing. The scientist in me likes to focus on the minutia, so I’ll often return to the same places over and over to see how they’ve changed with time. This practice has led to my current project, South Holt, which takes place in the alleyway behind my apartment building – almost like an urban archeology study – looking at the things my neighbors leave behind, things the wind blows in, the messiness that results from so many people living in such close proximity.

Do you think conditions are generally improving for artists? What more can cities and communities do to improve conditions for artists?
As someone who very much considers herself an emerging artist, I can only speak to my limited experience trying to make do with photography as a part of my career. And I will say that as a white, cis person, it’s intrinsically easier for me to succeed in that regard. Financial discrimination is baked into the fine art photography world with things like submission fees, expensive workshops, and conferences, and costs associated with producing printed work, which can all feel like prerequisites for having your work seen. These costs inherently suppress the work of young artists, artists of color, and LGBTQ+ artists from the mainstream.

Social media and other online communities are expanding networks and providing access to new markets, but by no means are those technologies fully inclusive. To some extent, we all live in our bubbles. It is the job of progressive cities like Los Angeles to elevate the work and stories of LGBTQ+ artists, female-identifying artists, and artists of color through grants and public art initiatives to help ease the financial burdens they face and democratize the fine art industry so that there is space for everyone to participate. The vastness of LA, the sheer volume of available surface area, calls for public art that is site and community-specific that will highlight the immense cultural, social, and ethnic diversity of the city as told by those who represent it.

What’s the best way for someone to check out your work and provide support?
My photographs can be viewed on my website, and I’m working on a few handmade book projects that will hopefully be finished at the end of this year. There will be an exhibition of my work, along with some other amazing Los Angeles photographers at the Los Angeles Center for Photography in November as well.

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Image Credit:

Julia Bennett

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