It was the camera collection of Julia Marino’s father that first introduced this now-photographer to the medium. Of course, introducing her to the practice and many tools that contribute to the act of taking a photograph, deep down it was the connection it offered which she loved the most. “Two people discussing how to capture something they saw,” she elaborates. “A way of communicating, but through image, not words. I remember being really intrigued by this.”
Then deciding to pursue photography at higher education, now Julia operates a personal and commercial practice, largely centring around jaw droopingly good portraiture. Describing her practice as serving “as an exploration of the world around me,” Julia notes that the medium dually acts as a vehicle of self-exploration, “as often the topics I explore are as much about myself,” she tells It’s Nice That. In turn, a number of the angles behind her work stem from Julia’s own heritage – her family is both half Dutch and half Italian in descent. “As a result, my fascinations for themes such as family membership, representation and mixed descent play an important role in my personal work.”
Across her portfolio, viewers will be able to spot a few distinct locations Julia flits between to further her research on these subjects. Immersing herself in the social landscape of southern Italy and Yugoslavia, many of her works “investigate the complexity of family dynamics,” as the photographer puts it. By specifically looking at family structures like her own, “I question whether traditional social structures still play such an important role in modern family dynamics, especially in an era of globalisation and a growing virtual interconnectedness,” she adds.
Despite this deeper layer, however, on the surface, her work is “tender, still and joyful’. Julia combines these factors with “aesthetics consciously within my work as a tool to entice the viewer beyond the surface of the image,” she adds. “I want to avoid my work having to shout in order to get people to listen to it.”
When describing this component of her work, Julia points us in the direction of a few photographs to best present this approach, “and therefore represent me and my work best I think.” One of which is Rebuilding, an image taken during her first trip to Bosnia which visualises “the rebuilding of the nation and the complex social structures of the country,” starring an ant colony as a visual metaphor.
Another, This is not Bosnia, features a group of boys paused in the mid-air balancing of a goal post, also presenting photographic tension. Taken in Neum, the only piece of coastline which belongs to Bosnia, “it’s an area where ethnic segregation is very noticeable,” explains Julia of her experience. “Neum is a town where I’ve been told by children that ‘this is not Bosnia’, referring to the fact that it’s Croatia, when in fact it is in Bosnia,” she adds. “Seeing youth defend their beliefs about their actual descent shows that traces from a recent civil war are still everywhere in these countries.” As a result, this image in particular “is about the development of youth within the complex landscape they manifest themselves in.”
By constructing such layered narratives in her work, Julia has also developed a technical approach to photographing which mirrors this care. Always aiming to work collaboratively with a subject to leave “space to see how they want to represent themselves,” each image is prefaced with a backstory of the social and political situation a subject finds themselves within. To do this, the photographer also works exclusively in film, which allows an image “to rest for a few days, sometimes weeks, before viewing and assessing it, and this can provide a lot of new insights,” she elaborates.
Onset Julia continues this careful train of thought by working with a camera which uses a waist-level viewfinder. This “maintains a sweet distance between the eye and what can be seen through the lens,” she explains. “For me, this distance between the eye and the image acts as a reminder of my role as a photographer; I am looking at and creating a subjective vision of the world.” Each of these considerations also builds up to a larger mission Julia is working towards: “to use the photographic medium to enhance the complexity of the people I photograph.”
Each of these factors of her work is a quality Julia’s been concentrating on and realising of late, noting how “the current situation has given my work process an unexpectedly positive turn,” she adds as our conversation draws to a close. “By pausing for a moment, I realised that I want to take a break from commissioned work and prioritise research and personal work.” An element of her practice we can look forward to seeing more of, after a year of paused opportunities the photographer plans to give “full priority to this research.”
Julia Marino: This is Not Bosnia (Copyright © Julia Marino, 2020)
About the Author
Lucy (she/her) joined It’s Nice That as a staff writer in July 2016 after graduating from Chelsea College of Art. In January 2019, was made deputy editor and in November 2021, she became a senior editor predominantly working on It’s Nice That's partnerships. Feel free to get in contact with Lucy about creative projects for the site or potential partnerships.