Peeking in from outside her neighbors’ windows, London photographer Julia Fullerton-Batten creates elaborate, cinematic tableaux, voicing their stories from a distance.
Text by Liz Sales
In the days leading up to the COVID-19 pandemic, London-based photographer Julia Fullerton-Batten was busy planning a shoot. Like her previous projects, which draw on the high-production aesthetics of cinema, the plan was to work with a large team including assistants, set designers, prop stylists, and hair and makeup people. Then suddenly, the stay-at-home order sent her and her neighbors into lockdown, postponing these and any other plans.
Sophie Ellis-Bextor and Richard Jones, Lockdown Day 53. Richard and I didn’t choose very practical careers when there’s a lockdown. We miss gigs and have no work in sight for 2020. The core things that we value - what makes us laugh, what makes us sad, they are all the same. We share lockdown with our 5 kids.What I miss most is the usually casual nature of my life. Watching my kids running about outside without worrying they are too close to others © Julia Fullerton-Batten
But this didn’t stop her; Fullerton-Batten was determined to find ways to continue her work. In response, she created Looking Out From Within, a series of portraits featuring Londoners in self-isolation. She explains, “This was when we were in a tight lockdown and only allowed to go out for an hour every day. I knew that as a photographer, I could not just stand around and do nothing. So, I decided to document my community members, looking out from their windows onto a different world.”
To find models, she advertised via social media and in a local West London newsletter. The response was enormous, and for weeks, she photographed people in her area from outside their windows. Shooting mostly during twilight—when natural light illuminates the sky without overpowering artificial light—Fullerton-Batten traveled to her subjects’ homes with her twelve-year-old son Finn, who helped carry her equipment. She explains, “I am used to working with a large crew, which I obviously could not do for this project. However, I wanted these images to be consistent with the cinematic aesthetic of my work. So, I had to re-learn how to make photographs more simply, like in my early days as a photographer.”
Ann, Lockdown Day 74. We were never fans of the current government, but their handling of this crisis has taught us not to trust them or their advisers, even their medical advisers.While acknowledging that we are in a better position than many, we are naturally anxious about the outcome, (we are over 70) and for others. We want to be able to look back on this very strange time but no-one knows when it will end. © Julia Fullerton-Batten
In order to achieve her signature aesthetic, Fullerton-Batten paid meticulous attention to detail. Before each shoot, she informally interviewed her subjects to get a sense of their experience, discussed and selected their wardrobe and props for the shoot, and scouted their homes for the perfect window and camera angle. As a result, Looking Out From Within conjures a dreamlike narrative within each image. This eerie feeling particularly resonates in the age of social distancing, where we seem to exist in a world suspended from time.