The Noir A-Z -
Julian Hibbard is an English photographer living and working in New York. His enigmatic images reflect his interest in storytelling, memory, exile, desire and spectatorship. His first book, "The Noir A-Z", a visual alphabet to accompany dominant terms from the noir universe, was published in 2009. A second title - "Schematics: A Love Story" a visual meditation on love, loss, time and memory, was released in December 2011.
Sabine Morandini : What is your inspiration for staging and the artistic direction of your images?
Julian Hibbard : Ever since I began taking pictures I have been drawn to creating narrative images that reflect my interest in memory, subjectivity, dreams, film and spectatorship. Often I create moments situated right on the cusp of being both seductive and enticing but also unsettling. This quality speaks to me of an idea of threshold inherent in my pictures; a moment of crossing, transformation and change, that may or may not happen and ultimately it is the spectator who must decide.
SM : What kind of photographer are you?
JH: I am a fine art photographer whose work crosses the worlds of fashion and cinema. My images are conceptual, dark and playful. I combine ideas and photography to produce images that have many layers of meaning. I am particularly attracted to ideas that revolve around perceptions of truth and that use simple props or garments as devices to create psychological relationships and mystery. Photography has always been a way for me to look at the world and isolate moments that cause me wonder and self-reflection as I struggle to unlock their meaning and in the process understand my own condition.
SM : How do you prepare your images?
JH : My images are developed over time. The build up is slow as I move the parts into place. Often I return to re-examine and assemble ideas I have previously collected. Drawing and the use of storyboards are an important part of that process.
SM : Are you rather digital or chemical?
JH : Chemistry speaks to me of alchemy and I still see photography as a process of alchemy. I learnt photography in the darkroom. There I discovered the magic to seeing a moment in time, recorded on film, transferred onto paper in turn. I suspect there is a part of this ritual I don’t want to let go of and hence I still shoot film. I also place importance on accidents and the richness of possibilities that happen from not being completely in control, which is the case with film and mechanical cameras. Of course the world is changing fast and speeding up. I understand that digital technology and digital delivery is creating new possibilities and access to an emotional experience not obtainable in other ways. I’m not a Luddite but I have resisted the change to digital capture longer than most.
SM : Is your photography always inspired by cinema? (Hitchcock) Who Else?
JH : Cinema is an inspiration and I see many references made to Hitchcock in my work and I take that as a compliment. Hitchcock was a filmmaker who made moral darkness incredibly attractive. Being that he was English and came to work in America I see additional parallels. I also find the transference of guilt in his characters and his use of the emotional suggestiveness of color and the unconscious effect that has on the viewer to be fascinating. In terms of our sources I was shown the photography of Guy Bourdin whilst at art school many years ago and the way he pushed the envelope of fashion left a deep impression on me. I appreciate the stillness and sense of alienation in Edward Hopper’s paintings. One of my favorite films is “If” by Lindsay Anderson. “If” speaks to me because of it’s structure, the clash of authority versus rebellion and my own English boarding school background. Stanley Kubrick and Luis Bunuel inspire me. Certain sequences and the lighting in “The Night of the Hunter” by Charles Laughton are also very powerful.
SM : Do you have literary influences?
JH : Literature is working on me more and more. I recently read “The Stranger” by Albert Camus and found myself writing down the sentence “Everything is true and nothing is true” from the book. Right now I am reading “Conversations with J G Ballard” and I see he articulates a very similar way of thinking. Early short stories by Roberto Bolaño transport and connect me with feelings I have for Chile. “The Things They Carried” by Tim O’Brian and “But Beautiful” by Geoff Dyer are also books that resonate.
SM : Can you explain the choice of titles in the book?
JH : The origins of the word component happened once I started to catch and identify certain recurrent themes embedded in my work; psychological themes such as “pursued” for example. As I began putting words to images, like crystals forming in a solution, so an alphabet grew. In the context of the book the word choices function as both window and mirror, just as the images they are paired with.
SM : What is the perfect crime?
JH : To me executing the perfect crime implies escaping the inescapable. The perfect crime leaves us baffled and there I see the very nature of fascination. In many ways the magic trick reminds me of the perfect crime. It both deceives and thrills us. The escape artist has cheated death, the magician has defied the normal laws. Real magic is the illusion that there is such a thing as real magic. If the secret is never revealed the fascination remains, which is what we desire most. These are all qualities I am very much drawn too and as such I would have to admit that I am also implicated in a desire to elicit the perfect crime.
SM : When you are the subject of your images who presses on the shutter?
JH : Friends. By turning the camera on myself I began examining and recording my own personal narrative and that required a certain amount of help. I did enjoy being the protagonist in my own pictures but I started to play with that role and manipulate the truth and eventually journeyed back to the other side of the camera.
SM : Are you rather Grace Kelly or Gary Grant?
JH : Currently I’m more drawn to Grace Kelly. Her beauty radiates and touches me. But there is also a vulnerability to her that is harder to place. This question makes me think of Hitchcock again. He knew the desires of his audiences and understood how to take the beauty of his actresses and turn that both into pictorial and thematic virtues in his films.
SM : The culprit is that you?
JH : Guilty as charged! I am the author of my images. I point the camera. I press the shutter. I take responsibility but is the act of observing a crime also? Here I see the fine line that separates fantasy and reality for in what sense are photographs real and in what sense are they illusion? Certainly my pictures raise as many questions as answers and part of why they can at times be seen as unsettling is that they no doubt satisfy unconscious desires that must by definition and in different ways exist in all of us. To conclude if I am guilty then my guilt is also tied with my need to be honest and shine light on this less understood side of myself for photography has always been my way of showing both of those contradictory ideas simultaneously.
SM : What fascinates you?
JH : Fire, explosions, the beauty of touch, deserts, nostalgia, exile, objects glimpsed in a dream, the sublime, going to sea, the eternal power of a woman’s beauty, World War II, milk, uniforms, code breaking, contradictory feelings, sustaining the hopes of youth, the fine line between fantasy and reality.
Laurette, Ivy and Mickael
"The noir A-Z" Julian Hibbard
Report Laurette Fournier
“The Noir A – Z” was published in September 2009 by Mark Batty Publisher.
Ivy Brown Gallery
675 Hudson Street, 4N,
between 13th and 14th Streets
«Schématics: A Love Story" December 2011