Originally falling in love with art, photographer Julie Hamel now create stunning fine-art photographs for her personal portfolio. Julie incorporates a lot of naturalistic imagery within her photographs, capturing humans surrounded with lots of green. Below is our interview with Julie, who speaks about her love for photography and how she captured her hauntingly beautiful image, “Shallow Dreams.”
Hi there Julie how are you?
Hello! I am amazing. Got my warm tea while it is snowing outside!
Tell us a little about yourself.
Until recently, I lived in New Hampshire my entire life (within an hour and a half radius of homes). New Hampshire is really beautiful. So many trees and rivers, not many large cities. Just by driving around you can find numerous rural places to explore. I grew up on a lake for part of my childhood and was always climbing trees, swimming and playing with animals I found: snakes, frogs, fish. I think those years had a large impact on the subject matter that I now shoot.
How did the passion you have for photography develop?
This is kind of embarrassing! When I went to college I knew I loved art and had a knack for creating things, so I decided to take some Fine Art classes (I had never taken an art class in high school). To get into the program, taking a photography class was mandatory (nothing like forcing you into a relationship!) As class went on I just naturally gravitated towards certain work. At the same time, I had a strained relationship with my father due to my parents’ divorce. Photography was something that we had in common and helped us regain our relationship which only made my bond with my camera that much more important.
Tell us a little about the idea behind and what happened on the day of shooting “Shallow Dreams.”
I will never forget it. I asked my best friend Thomas and dorm mate Kristen to model for me. They had never met before this time, which is something I like to incorporate in my photographs due to the different chemistry. We arrived at the river and realized that the models were unable to lay/float on the water! Thomas and I are problem solvers when it comes to taking photographs, however I never could have done it without him. The only way to accomplish the angle was to use a fallen tree across the river, which made this the ideal location. I quickly shimmied up to about 30ft and was able to shoot down on them. To say the least, I was more scared of my camera falling in than I was of myself taking the plunge!
You seem to incorporate a lot of naturalistic elements such as birds, plants and leaves. What is it about the natural world that draws you into incorporating those into your images?
I think nature is beautiful and intimidating. Full of intricate, colorful, dimensional, self-sustaining textures and shapes. There is a lot of life and death within it, cycles. So much of it can be a push and pull between the strong and the vulnerable. To think about it, the outside is our world, but it also is not. I want to grasp some of the places and beauty of things that have grown and try to solidify an environment for my images. I have found that nature allows me to have the perfect amount of what is in and out of my control in my work.
You also seem to use a lot of the natural human form in your images. What is it about the human form that you like reflecting through your images?
Perfect word: “form.” I love the human form; I think it is beautiful. The shapes people are able to take with muscles and bones are amazing. When you strip someone down to their core there is no way to tell what generation they are from, no hidden agenda or meaning. I believe they become vulnerable much like their surroundings. For me I think it is very important that I incorporate the presence of being and life.
You mentioned on your blog that most of the people you photograph for creative images are friends that act as your models. What was it like working with Thomas Burdett in some of your photographs? And what has been one of the most interesting experiences you’ve had out on a shoot?
Yes! I have the best friends & family in the world; they are such a support system. Since they are constantly viewing my work they ask to be part of it. They have seen what I do and it is much easier than walking up to a stranger and asking, “Hey, do you want to get naked in a freezing river with a dead animal?” They know what to expect from me. I also like that they do not have a preconceived notion of what “posing” or “modeling” is. They do not seem to try as hard.
Thomas is by far my creative other half. Whenever we are stuck we poke the other for their opinions. We use to go on the best adventures before he moved out west to further his music career. I always came up with ideas for shots and awkwardly ask, “Do you think you could physically climb up in there and lay down?” Without blinking he would be off and running, “I don’t know, but I can try!” We were like kids on Christmas trying to open up our artful presents.
One image I will never forget is when I tried to shoot my sister on the ice. The photograph “13 Degrees” was given that name due to the fact it was actually 13 degrees out when we took it. I hand made the dress she was wearing and we had to keep dunking her in my father’s hot tub to get her wet. By the time she would walk down to the ice everything was already frozen (and in the wrong positions). After a couple dunks, we realized we had to “place” her wet hair and dress how I wanted it before she left for the ice. It was freezing, but in my opinion, worth it!
Photography is about creating, exploring and trying to develop skin and attain a sense of style for your images. What is it about photography that you enjoy most and how do you think you will further your career over the next few years?
I think I am still exploring. I enjoy working with people and their surroundings the most. If I could I would shoot everything outside. There is something about the land and all of its elements that seem to be intangible due to timing; life spans, seasons etc. I hope to get more actual work done. This last year has been trying for me, moving from state to state due to upcoming changes. I hope to be able to settle down and concentrate on the important aspects of my work. I am really excited.
Who is an inspiration to you as a photographer and what is your all time favourite image captured by someone else?
I’ll have to say Sally Mann, due to the fact that I don’t take self-portraits. Like her, I take pictures of people that are close to me. She also has a more interesting, sometimes morbid fascination as well which I can relate to. My all time favorite picture, if I have to pick just one, may be from the book “Immediate Family” by Sally Mann. I do not know which are titled or not, but they are so simple and powerful.
If you could describe your photography in under a sentence, what would it say?
Under a sentence? That is tough! Maybe, ‘the juxtaposition between opposing forces.” Not so much good and evil but more of textures, colors, temperatures, and fatality.
Finally, any advice for aspiring photographers?
Go Create. You can take that as two separate commands or one. Go. Get out there. Create. Do not wait until your “next big thing.” You will never find anything good that way. The more you wait and worry, the less work you will end up with. During the time that you are creating (anything) you are going through a process that will help you problem solve, open your mind, give you even more ideas and propel you towards something bigger. Even if you are not 100% in love with your outcome, it doesn’t matter, because you made it. On your way to the finish line, you grew as a creative being and are that much better for it. As long as you are enjoying yourself, never stop creating art.