The photographs of Julia Fullerton-Batten (b. 1970) are drenched in theatrical suspense. Mixing fine art with cinematic imagery, the photographer’s works – which have featured on the cover of Aesthetica Magazine – have captivated audiences globally. The figure of the woman is a recurring theme in Fullerton-Batten’s oeuvre; she contemplates the beauty of the female form in her series Unadorned and considers the complexity of relationships between women in Mothers and Daughters. Her first book, Teenage Stories (2007), took this interest further as the text carefully studies the behaviour of teenage girls. The artist has a rare skill in being able to unfold the many layers of the mind in one image, producing works overflowing with narratives; within one picture there are a multitude of possibilities.
The most recent body of work, Old Father Thames, is inspired by the river and its historical significance. As the artist notes: “The Thames is chequered with many interesting individual stories, encompassing birth, baptism, death, suicide, messages in a bottle, riverside scavenging youngsters, quaint ancient boats, prison ships and other melodramatic episodes of life and death.” The series explores a selection of culturally and historically informed narratives, offering a diverse selection of filmic tableaux staged along the river’s trajectory. Investigating the unique characters and locales key to the waterway’s past, the collection offers a deeply personal – yet highly symbolic – account of its journey through the ages, using real accounts to inform each piece.
For example, The Race Box, featured above, uses the UK’s internationally renowned boat races as its starting point. Attracting audiences and crews from around the globe, competitions such as the annual University Boat Race and The Great River Race – as well as those staged by smaller yachting and rowing clubs – have come to define the region. Fullerton-Batten’s image depicts the uninterrupted view from an award-winning officer’s elevated position at London Corinthian Sailing Club. In-keeping with a signature style, the artist adds an element of mystery to the scene by placing a single female figure in his position, illuminated against the backdrop of a tumultuous sky. In a similar way, other works, such as Ophelia, Baptisms along the Thames and Swan Upping tap into notions of cultural symbolism and myth, whilst Sweet Message in a Bottle and The Grain Tower offer individual accounts. Images including Bathers at Tower Bridge portray group activities, investigating ideas of collective memory and idiosyncrasy.
1. The Race Box, from Old Father Thames. © Julia Fullerton-Batten