Meet the Editors: Julia Bennett
As a team, all of the editors of Aint-Bad can agree on one simple fact, we like photography. I mean, we really like it. This shouldn’t come as a surprise or anything, as most of our time is spent looking at, writing about, and thinking about photography. We’re excited to introduce ourselves as editors, as photography purveyors, as human beings. Today we’re taking a moment to get to know Julia Bennett, renaissance woman who splits her time between photography and marine science. (Bet ya didn’t know that!) As an Aquarius, Julia has the desire to explore everything and anything.
Julia is currently based in Los Angeles, California, meaning we’ve got editors coast to coast. She’s obviously on the sunny coast, if you haven’t noticed her perfect tan. Her work has been exhibited in both solo and group exhibitions. Today we’re sharing a selection of her work, including ‘Into the Umbra’ which delicately explores the microscopic world of plankton. This body of work has received numerous grants and awards, including the Magellan Scholar Grant.
Where ya from?
I am from a suburb of Philadelphia called Bucks County. There’s mostly just deer there.
How long have you been a part of the Aint-Bad team?
I’ve just had my one year anniversary with Aint-Bad, although I’ve known some of the team a bit longer than that.
Can you describe the process used to make Into the Umbra?
I used both live and archived samples of plankton and shot with a digital camera mounted to a microscope. I wasn’t really interested in photographing what I was seeing as a scientific reference- there’s plenty of people more qualified than me to do that. I was really trying to draw this correlation between the tiniest organisms in the ocean and the vastness of outer space, so I used the microscope light source as well as external light sources and mirrors to create the extraterrestrial appearance you see in some of the images. Lots of experimentation and happy accidents.
I think a lot of people don’t realize that Photography is applied to scientific studies. At what point did you mingle your interest for Marine Science with Photography?
I first started to think about merging my art and science interests in my sophomore year of college during a lab for one of my marine science classes. We were looking at plankton in the microscope and I was in awe of what I was looking at, and decided that more people would want to engage with science if they could see what I was seeing.
What’s the most fascinating thing that you’ve learned by letting these passions intersect?
I was photographing for a grant project while I was in Australia and had been in the lab for like, 5 hours. My eyes and head hurt because I had been staring into the microscope so long. I was cleaning a sample and one of the plankton, called a copepod – it looks like Plankton from Spongebob- started giving birth and all these little babies started swimming around. I nearly cried, which is super nerdy, but I was tired had been looking at this thing for so long that I developed an emotional attachment to something that you can’t even see with the naked eye.
I think its interesting that your knowledge and love for marine science can translate into a somewhat abstract piece of work that the viewer may not understand, but you’re able to provide both an creative and scientific explanation. Are viewers generally receptive to both aspects?
It depends. Sometimes people disengage once they find out what it is they’re looking at, or they’re more curious about the technical aspects of how the photograph was made. But regardless of whether people are more interested in the scientific or creative explanations, they typically have to ask questions and open a conversation to get the information they want, which is what’s most important to me.
What constitutes a GOOD photograph or body of work? What are you drawn to when putting together Aint-Bad features?
A good body of work makes me feel connected to and curious about something I hadn’t seen or understood previously. Simply representing a subject doesn’t necessarily make for good photography. What makes a photograph or body of work good is the formed connection between audiences and subjects who would otherwise have had no reason to interact with each other. Good photography forces you to engage, even if only for a few minutes.
A lot of the work I’m drawn to is related to perspective, illusion, science and technology, and human experiences.
What is the most memorable image you’ve ever seen?
This image was made by Catherine Wagner, someone who’s work has been very influential to my own. It’s a very satisfying and fascinating photograph.
Do you have any direct scientific or artistic influences?
Ernst Haekel was one of the first people to start visually documenting plankton and sea creatures. He created beautiful paintings and drawings of the craziest most alien creatures you could imagine. They weren’t always the most scientifically accurate but they’re incredible to look at.
I mentioned Catherine Wagner before. Being introduced to her work gave me the permission I needed as a young college student to merge my scientific and photographic interests. She has a book called Cross Sections where she photographed everything from fruit to brain cells using an electron scanning microscope. Drawing visual comparisons between things that are seemingly so far from each other in both proximity and biology inspired me to pursue Into the Umbra.
What aspects of your daily life are reflected through the work that you are drawn to or make?
I think my fascination/frustration with humans and their relationship to the environment is something that I am constantly thinking about and trying to reconcile in my photographic work. I’ve been living in Los Angeles for a little over a year now, and after observing and experiencing so many people from so many different backgrounds, in a city with an incredibly complex human and environmental history, i’ve never felt more inspired to make photographs.
What’s your favorite song right now?
A Comet Appears by The Shins. Admittedly it’s been my favorite for years now but I’ve been listening to it more frequently as of late.
Biggest fear? Favorite smell?
Not doing enough, orange blossoms. They’re blooming in LA right now.
Where do you see yourself in 25 years?
Giving a TED talk. Who knows about what.
Color or black and white? Film or Digital?
If you could be best friends with anyone, dead or alive, who would it be?
Ruth Bader Ginsberg. Being best friends with someone entitles you to gossip and I think she would have the best.
Favorite Aint-Bad publication?
Do you have any new projects that you’re working on?
I’m currently photographing the coastal and urban landscape in southern California. Areas like Los Angeles and Orange County developed so rapidly and with such little regard for the extremity of the natural landscape or the demands that were being put on the environment that now we humans are just sort of stuck in this place we’re not really supposed to be. It’s all very artificial and darkly humorous, so I’m having fun exploring all of that.
We’re honored to have Julia a part of the Aint-Bad team, demonstrating her multiple interests and talents. Do you have more questions for Julia? Feel free to reach out to her at firstname.lastname@example.org or spend some time on her website, https://www.julialbennettphotography.com.