Julien James Q&A
To simply put it, the Black gaze is a perspective. It’s the manner in which Black people globally see and perceive their day to day life, their community, and the world at large. Perspectives, in general, are critical for painting a more complete picture. The Black perspective is one that has globally been ignored. – Julien James
How does the Black gaze relate to your photography practice?
A substantial amount of my work highlights Black men in a different light – highlighting them in an intimate way that shows their depth beyond monolithic stereotypes, perpetuated troupes, and fetishisation.
What do you want to say or address with your photography?
By nature, my work doesn’t address or say anything. My goal is to provide an alternative perspective and viewpoint, and let the viewer find their own meaning.
What influences and inspires you? How is this reflected in your work?
My curiosity in people, their story, where they are from, and conversations are the foundational pillars of what inspires my work. I am always genuinely invested in the person I’m photographing. I see myself in every person I photograph; I think in large that has enabled me to take images that feel intimate and personal – because in part they are.
Who are your favourite Black photographers from the past? Why?
The one and only Roy DeCarava. I studied a lot of his work as I taught myself the art of shooting in black and white. His work is really important as he was one of the first to use black and white photography for personal expression instead of social documentary. His overarching theme of Blackness and conveying his subject matter artistically dramatically influenced my style.
Please describe the highs and lows of your experience as a Black photographer?
I think a few of the lows are not seeing many Black photojournalists or photo editors. I believe there is still a significant lack of diversity at the highest level. The best experience for me so far has been an ongoing one – just the ability to document Blackness and culture and share it with the world has been amazing.
What work are you producing and what more would you like to do?
I am currently exploring the dynamics of the Black family through portraits. Next, for me, is to start exploring storytelling through other visual mediums.
About Julien James
Julien James is a photographer and art director based in Washington, D.C., whose work is anchored in documenting culture and Blackness through portraits, places and things.
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