We first fell in love with Julien Mauve’s work when we featured his series Headland of Dreams back in April of this year. So when he shared his latest project Greetings From Mars with us, we realized it was the perfect opportunity to not only share an amazing body of work, but to also get to know a little bit more about him.
AB: Hey Julien! Can you start by telling us a little bit about your self & how you first got your start as a photographer?
I’ve always loved printed pictures. It started with my family photo albums when I was young, I spent hours looking at them, fascinated by their power over me. My dad offered me my first analog camera at the age of 10 and my first reflex at 25. I found myself really interested in staged photography and started my first project 4 years ago. Since then, things have progressed pretty fast. I’ve been awarded several prizes, including the prestigious SFR Jeunes Talents in 2013, shortlisted for the Leica Oscar Barnak Award in 2015 and I have exhibited my work in several galleries and fairs around Europe including Paris, Copenhagen and London.
AB: What would you say most inspires your work?
My visual inspirations come from my experiences as a human being living in the 21st century, such as seeing movies and exhibitions and playing video games. I’m especially curious about science, new technologies, space and all the questions those subjects raise.
AB: Where did the idea for Greetings from Mars come from?
I’ve been fascinated with Mars since I was a child. I can picture myself back in college making presentations about it. We hear a lot about NASA, Elon Musk and SpaceX these days. Mars One also, the company that offers people a one way ticket to establish the first human colony on Mars (and intends to create a TV show out of it). Space exploration and colonisation is the greatest adventure of the century and the fact that we may witness it in our life-time (just as our parents and grand-parents did in the 60’s) makes it even more exciting. The Internet nearly broke when Baumgartner jumped from the stratosphere, just imagine the day the first man will put a feet on Mars!
In the mean time, Earth has become really small. We are only 12 hours and $800 away from the other side of the world. Those easy traveling conditions have made tourism a conventional activity (not only for just the wealthy anymore). People can visit and enjoy places we could have only imagined just 50 years ago. It took less than 500 years for the Wild West to go from an amazing discovery to an epic touristic destination. Once transportation issues are solved and as long as we don’t encounter any massive disaster, space-tourism for middle-class people is something we can imagine happening in less than 100 years.
On top of that, smartphones and social networks have emerged, allowing us to share our lives with everyone else in real time, to write our own story. We’ve literally developed a new language to communicate emotions through pictures and that really fascinates me.
These are all the ideas I’ve tried to mix into this project.
AB: You’re based in Paris, but this series was shot in the American West. Why specifically did you choose this as the backdrop for the project & how did you go about scouting locations?
When it comes to finding Mars look-alike landscapes on Earth, there is not a lot of choice. Basically, what you need is rocks, sand, canyons and no signs of biological life. And all of that with a red tint to it. Australia and the Wadi Rum in Jordan have those kind of landscapes, but I choose the Wild West because it offered a much larger variety in easily reachable distance. I made my scouting using Google Map, Flickr, Instagram and ultimately, I chose the places that I thought had the most potential. We ended up having 7 different locations and driving nearly 4000 miles in only 8 days!
AB: You’re a part of Sony’s Global Imaging Ambassadors Program. What all does that entail & what was it like working with them & having their support for this project?
I have been a Sony Global Imaging Ambassador for almost two years now and they offer me both material and financial support. When I talked to them about the project they were really thrilled and decided to help me. Funny thing is, I forgot one of my cameras when I left Paris. The shooting was supposed to begin 2 days after I arrived and it was the weekend. I reached out to Sony from the plane and they managed to get me the same exact camera available in their offices in San Diego. This is the kind of situation when you really enjoy being partners with a global brand!
One of the things that initially drew me to your photographs is that they have a very cinematic quality to them. Is this something that you’re intentionally trying to convey in your work?
Yes. Part of my process in creating a photography project is similar to how movies are made. I spend a lot of time working on the idea, reading books, searching for any information I can find. Then I think about the characters, start the scouting, sometimes make (awful) sketches to materialize what I have in mind. And finally, I spend a lot of time in the post-production phase on color calibration. I want to create photographic universes that trigger imagination and that’s why I spend so much time working on those aspects. I like the work of artists like Hiroshi Sugimoto, photographers like Evgenia Arbugaeva or Vanessa Winship, movie-makers like Tarantino, Gaspard Noé or Wes Anderson, game makers like Neil Druckmann (The Last Of Us) or Jenova Chen (Journey). They are all great story tellers with strong visual identities.
AB: Is travel a big part of your photographic practice? I ask this because I’ve noticed that while your images certainly have a strong sense of place, their actual location is rather ambiguous. Is this, again, something you’re trying to intentionally accomplish?
It really depends on the project. Most of the time, I’m looking for a certain mood and atmosphere, but the place does not matter even though it can be an inspiration. I’m a dreamer. I like fog, rain, dark atmospheres, and all the legends that surround places I go make me feel something special and fantasize about things. But I don’t want people to look at the picture and think “oh that’s the place we’ve been last summer!”, that’s not the point.
AB: What’s next for you? Any new series on the horizon?
Until now, I’ve managed to do everything on my own (selling prints, promoting my work, collecting funds, etc.). In the past 3 years, I have won awards and been a part of international fairs and exhibitions in different countries across Europe. Now I would like to find someone to represent my work and help me grow as an artist.
I’ve also been working on a book for more than a year and am looking for a publisher that will help me take it to a higher level. As for a new series, right now I’m experimenting with new techniques like underwater shooting and thermal imaging…so we’ll see what comes from that!
To view more of Julien’s work, please visit his website.