Volt Café is featuring a collaboration between photographer Julian Marshall and model Billie Turnbull. We spoke to the duo about their backgrounds, the beautiful shoot they created and future plans.
Marshall was born in Greenwich. After studying law, he moved back to London and got a random job at a photographic agency. “I was quite happy-go-lucky and I started assisting a photographer at the agency. After five years assisting I woke up and decided that I was a photographer, and I think I made about 100 calls a day and tried to see as many people as possible.” After about six months someone offered Julian a job: “this actually quite disturbed me, because it was great fun being a photographer but taking pictures is a pain in the arse.” From that point onwards Marshall started working as a freelance photographer. “It’s still not so easy taking pictures but I always pretend it is.”
On the other side of the lens is Billie Turnbull. 21 years old, born and bred in London. Turnbull was signed by Select in her first year of A-levels and models part time while also working on film productions, assisting stylists and photographers. Right now she’s working as an assistant casting director.
Marshall tells us he was having coffee with Turnbull’s agent Susannah Hooker in Soho when she passed by. “I had seen Billie’s work. She had done some amazing pictures with Nick Knight, a punk story for i-D Magazine, so I was really excited to have met her.”
Q’s Julian Marshall
What is the story behind the shoot and how did you come up with it?
J.M: After the meeting with her agent we arranged to shoot together. At the time I used to shoot a lot just for the sake of it, with no story in mind and quite often with no hair and makeup and no styling. I think we had had a quick chat on the phone but we hadn’t planned anything.
Shooting nudes must have been an interesting experience. Have you done many nude shoots? How was shooting with Billie? Was it any different than previous shoots?
J.M: I have always shot nudes. It’s not something I particularly plan but I think everyone loves to have their picture taken with no clothes on, it just doesn’t often happen. I would never take a picture of someone if I felt they were even remotely uncomfortable, so in that sense all of my pictures are personal even on a commercial shoot. Billie is a deeply artistic person and everyone who knows her really loves her for it. Essentially my pictures are about love, so Billie made taking her picture so easy and effortless, which is a gift. My one desire as a photographer is to move people, so this is what I strive for, and it is really no difference whether it is for a commercial picture or not.
Any particular reason why you chose to draw hearts on her?
J.M: I was trying out writing things down before shooting, drawing ideas out. So before the second day I drew these hearts on a piece of paper. Billie is such a beautiful person it just seemed appropriate. Billie laughed when she saw them because it was literally a page of A4 paper filled up with hearts. It was fun to draw on her and of course it was intimate too. I was drawing and Billie was sharpening the eyeliner pen, which kept breaking, so it became quite comical.
The shoot was done over two days, so you spent a lot of time together. Do you feel you have become really close to her? Did shooting her without clothes play any role in this?
J.M: I don’t think it makes a difference that she was dressed or not. If you spend two days together shooting it is quite intense. The thing about taking pictures is that it’s a live event, almost like a performance art, and you can’t take that time back, so I felt a responsibility to Billie, to myself and to the moment.
Do you have any future plans with Billie?
J.M: We are always talking about projects and plans together. Billie is fundamentally an artist. She’s a great photographer and a singer and songwriter too, so I am always there to help her in anything she does.
What projects are you planning for 2015?
J.M: To keep working, improving, learning. It’s never ending.
Any advise for aspiring photographers?
J.M: I would suggest always finding inspiration in other people success and then to take a look at your own furrow, which, after all, is the only one for which you are responsible. It allows you to love and appreciate other people’s work, and to live a life of great happiness.
Q’s Billie Turnbull
What do you think is Julian’s best quality as a photographer?
B.T: Julian somehow manages to give you his full attention without it feeling like pressure. He has a really great way of managing to hold a completely normal conversation with you while taking photos without ever getting pictures of you talking.
What, in your opinion, is one of the most important things to bear in mind when modeling/posing without clothes?
B.T: Your mood will always show through so being relaxed will always make a stronger picture even if its less physically flattering than one you’ve carefully composed.
You have a very calm presence in your nude images; did you do any nude modeling before the sitting with Julian?
B.T: These were my first full nudes, although I have never been very reserved about nudity.
You can see in some images that I had scars from recent surgery, and I think that was a large part of why I was so calm. Being unwell and then watching my body heal had taken away a lot of my previous feelings of physical insecurity, as I was suddenly seeing my body as a piece of machinery more than an object of beauty or something related to sexuality.
Julian Marshall said the shoot was mainly about you for him. How did you experience the shoot?
B.T: We were both very energetic and motivated that day. I’ve always found the lack of collaboration on most shoots very frustrating and I think Julian felt the same, so we both enjoyed the chance to bounce ideas off each other without interference from a team. I think I was the focus of the day and the images may feel centered around my mood and movement, but it was absolutely a joint experience.
Do you have any future plans with Julian?
B.T: We’re planning to shoot some editorial and personal projects together, and possibly explore having me act as art director on Julian’s projects.
What other projects will you be working on this year?
B.T: I’m hoping to make a film that I have been writing slowly for over a year, and have just formed a band that I hope to push forward. I’m considering going back to school this year into an art related course, possibly in animation or prop making.
Any advise for aspiring models?
B.T: Don’t try to fit in, always have other projects, be as friendly as possible no matter how tired you are and spend the money you make on experiences over possessions.
Words by Isabelle Goessens
Tagsbillie turnbull, julian marshall, Photography, Rebecca Hawkes, select models,