Not long ago we featured a project entitled A is Yellow – a collaboration between Berlin-based photographer Julija Goyd and multi-talented creative duo Who is He?. Continuing our rather sporadic In The Studio interviews, I sat down with Julija to further explore the way she approaches her highly personal photography projects, the unusual path that led her to land in Berlin and the importance of finding balance between concepts and aesthetics.
Patrick: Well let’s start with connecting a few dots on your background, such as how you started out in finance management, your work as an actress, model, photographer and director – how do these all fit in?
Julija: Four years of economics was great, I was working a lot and it was nice work, but it was not for me. So I decided that I had to do something else – but as you know when you work and already have a certain education, it’s not easy to make these decisions. Obviously you find ways to get out. Through new people, new interests, perspectives… and so on. So after a few years of work I already had a completely different environment, such as with people and friends having artistic backgrounds and activities. Then I got two acting jobs, main roles, and it gave me the opportunity to quit my other job.
Patrick: Were you already acting professionally at the time? Or was this your first acting job?
Julija: This was a first job. The director saw me in the street and said he wanted me for his movie. I said why not. So I quit my job and had a few years to think… and while acting I met a lot of people in cinema production, producers… including one who invited me to work as a photographer in his advertising agency. I spent about a year there and then left for Helsinki to work in a play and take pictures. After a while I went to Athens, to work with the Epidaurus Festival. That lasted about a year and afterwards I moved to Berlin, mostly because of a friend and to see what would happen.
Patrick: Great. Let’s talk a bit about your work and your approach. You seem to work a lot with self-portraits, is it related to your work as an actress and model or is more out of practicality?
Julija: It’s both. First of all only I know best what I want to show and how the picture should look. The second thing is that while I worked as an actress and modeled, I got to know what the image and object of beauty is. Since my body was objectified in this sense while I was modeling, I can connect these things in a direct way.
Patrick: This seems to be reflected in the themes of your work as well… such as in the series Naked Nylon, Black&White or Women in Water.
Julija: Yes of course, all my work is very personal… If I take you through the different projects I have done, they all revolve around the themes of Subject/Objects/Becomings. The first series for example, entitled Growing Identities (series of natural dehydration process), is from the first period I lived in Berlin. I was curious about how to create objects which would represent nature of time within social context. As a narrative I used a mechanism in which status quo is a relation between a man and a woman. Each object is independent, self reflected and individually representative.
“Growing Identities” – Series of natural dehydration process – 2010 See full project here.
Julija: The series named “Portraits of citizens” are spontaneous snapshots of people I know around me. We just spent time together I always had my camera with me.
“Portraits of Citizens” – 2010-2011 – See full project here.
Patrick: Did you think of the conceptual side to this series before or after creating the images?
Julija: Most of the concept was thought of beforehand. I already knew I wanted to capture portraits of my friends or people I met, in the same time I was interested in recreating an image of the city (Berlin) through it’s inhabitants. This is the reason why most of portraits give impression being objectified in a space.
Patrick: In ‘Portraits of Citizens’ you relate to the idea of citizens as urban dwellers, could you explain that a bit more? How much did this have to do with coming to Berlin?
Julija: A lot. During my residency period in Berlin i had moments when i was trying to define myself in a new space. This process drew my attention to several key features. By citizen I don’t mean citizen of a specific country, but more the city dweller. Being an urban resident is a result of not fully conscious or deliberate choices and mainly related to a certain life style and state of mind, its a transformation into a space while becoming a part of it. The individual effects of this transformation on people’s destinies, the traces of it on a citizen’s daily life – these were the subjects of my work.
Patrick: Could you talk about the idea behind your project Black & White?
Julija: It’s simple, its like black and white, but there is always something appealing in the simplicity of it. Through self performative gesture i was trying to explore an idea of continual conflict with the gravity of the everyday life, which is always overriding a stable state and a stable identity. When i did these series first, I was mainly relating it to a subject of night life (i have lost a few friends who were drawn into the dangerous traps of night life), but at the end the series got into abstract dimensions and interpretations.
Black & White – 2011 – See full project here.
Julija: They found me and sent me an email explaining their project and that they would like to collaborate with me. Since they live in the US we started chatting via email and they explained how the main idea of the project is to explore the language through the appearance of scarves (design of each of the pieces is defined by an algorithm that distorts letterforms, creating an abstract flow of color). So I decided to make the scarves look like something…
Patrick: You captured something moving, as if living…
Julija: Exactly, it’s not the clothes as much as an object or subject. Looking at these pictures shouldn’t conjure an image of a scarf straight away, it reminds some people of medusa, or a question mark or a thought…
“A Is Yellow” – 2012 – See full project here.
Julija: Who is He? and I discussed ideas until we found something we liked in common, and then they sent me the scarves and I did the photos.
Patrick: That’s great. I love this kind of photography because aesthetically the movement, color and texture are visually striking. But also conceptually, the photos can have a lot of meaning. There’s a nice balance.
Julija: Exactly, that’s really what this work is about. “A is yellow” is really an unconventional project. In the same time it could be a fashion story, but on the other hand it has a concept. People who don’t look for much meaning in the photography tend to label it as fashion, because it is so lively, colorful and imaginative. These images could go as well aesthetically as conceptually, I love to connect these two different sides.
Patrick: What’s the story behind this image…?
Julija: This image is from the series “Little world”. I’m very curious, whatever I do I like to ask questions about everything. Once i shared a studio in Prenzlauer Berg. If you know a bit Berlin, you must know that Prenzlauerberg is an area in the city where a lot of young families move to when they get babies. I paid attention to surroundings, expensive design shops, fancy restaurants, high prices. I was amazed about this “world” and I wanted to find a reasoning for it. Then I got to know that Germany has extremely low birth rates and Chancellor Angela Merkel’s government has pumped billions into Germans’ pockets to encourage people to make more babies — but they still aren’t doing it. At least I did this picture!!!
Julija: For this series I had an idea of visualizing a state of mind with a tree. Trees are important here because they are about crossing borders. At first I didn’t realize how difficult climbing a tree could be, but once you’re up in a tree you are somewhere between borders – in space but also on land. That’s why trees seemed good for explaining a state of mind.
“Little World” – 2012 – on-going project. Patrick: What about the title Little World?
Julija: It’s about how people undergoing changes in life, it’s about difficulties, it’s also about seeing perspectives and crossing borders, it´s how sometimes one or another situation or problem becomes so big that it shades/blocks an ability to see what is around you, to find a right place for own identity. That’s why I called it ‘Little World’ and created spaces so impressively big.
Patrick: Regarding your inspirations, do you have specific artists’ whose work you get inspired by?
Patrick: What about local places you like in Berlin?
Julija: How about the Zoo???