ARTIST IN PROFILE // Julian Kingma, Photographer

Aug 7, 2014

Left: Stephen Heathcote by Julian Kingma, National Portrait Gallery (Princial Artist with Australian Ballet 87-07)

ARTIST IN PROFILE // Julian Kingma, Freelance Photographer
Every time a new image pops up in Julian Kingma's instagram feed I get a buzz. From breathtaking black and white photos of The Australian Ballet (I am a massive fan) to stunning portraits of some of Australia's most prominent actors, artists and musicians, Julian Kingma is not only a lovely guy but certainly tops the list for the most enviable job in the world. I had the pleasure of meeting Julian at Qualia last year and have been following his work ever since. I think I might of been one of the only people he has met who didn't say "where exactly" when he said he lived in a little town called Jan Juc in Victoria (Being married to a surfer of course I knew where it is!).  From glossy spreads in Vogue Living and Gourmet Traveller to exhibitions in the National Portrait Gallery Julian is one of the best there is. You can find his portraits of Harry Kewell, Billy Slater, Stephen Heathcote and Helen Garner to name a few hanging proudly in the National Portrait Gallery in Canberra.  

It is a real honour for me to feature Julian on the blog this week as our very special 'Artist in Profile' talking all things travel, photography, learning from Arnold Newman, and the joys of shooting people like Gotye. Wouldn't we all love this job! 

Tell me a little about your background, where did you grow up,  study, the path that led you to where you are now as a freelance photographer? 
Originally I thought I was going to be an illustrator... for years, throughout my primary years and into high school that’s all that interested me. I actually fell into photography in many ways - I picked up a little photography portrait book by the name of Arnold Newman ( NY photographer -since passed ) His portraits were so special, beautiful and honest - I actually decided on the spot that that’s what I want to do. So in amongst art classes ( that I started to skip ) I went into the school darkroom and proceed to teach myself photography. The link between photography &  illustration, or any art form for that matter didn't seem that foreign.  Whilst I was making a 'folio' of images I saw a small advert in the paper for a cadet ship at the Melbourne Herald Newspaper (now closed) and I applied. I thought if I get this job I'm dropping art school. And that's exactly what happened. Seems a little fatalistic in hindsight. That then lead me to the Sunday Age Newspaper where I shot features on staff for 10 years.
What are you working on at the moment? Currently working on many edits for many magazines. I'm always running late!! I'm also editing a portrait book I have shot for Hardie Grant.

Your most wow career moment to date? Photographing Arnold Newman ( my hero ) in NY for Harper's Bazaar, the man who lead me to photography unbeknown to him. I owe him my career in many ways. 

Which photographers, creatives, artists are inspiring you at the moment ? I'm a bit old school is this respect - I have always been inspired by the masters - Irving Penn, Arnold Newman, Bill Brandt. I'm also a huge lover of Jeffrey Smart and Miro.

What is the greatest influence on your style of work? This may sound strange ...but music. It seems to conger up visual ideas, and influences how I might approach my work. 

You have taken photographs of some of our most prominent Australians. Who has been your most favourite to shoot and why? Well on the subject of music I would have to say Gotye ( Wally De Backer ) Not only is he the nicest bloke on the planet,
he is such a generous man. And when you are a nervous wreck going into any shoot that is such a relief. He is extremely intelligent and it made for a lovely shoot. 

Gotye (Wally De Backer) by Julian Kingma

Best advice for young photographers just starting out? Be persistent to the point of annoying. I hassle / hassled art directors like no business. Also in this digital age anyone can be a photographer, the trick is how do you make the cream rise to the top? Know your history - be passionate and create images you are proud of. Its hard to not be affected by social media as it is all around us head down & bum up. Put the horse before the cart and the rest will follow.

"Know your history - be passionate and create images you are proud of"

What is the formula for the perfect shoot? I don't know if there is one. I'm a very instinctual photographer -  always listening to my gut.  I think trust goes a long way too ( if its a portrait ) be very open to change and make the best of what is thrown at you. Preconceived ideas can also be dangerous going into a shoot.

You travel so much for work, what has been your most amazing travel memoir? 
This is a very difficult question... as there are many for many different reasons. Cuba is def up there as it has lived up to all its visual hype. It really did. And I was just in Sri Lanka - which took me completely by surprise. Its just drop dead beautiful, as are the people. 

If you could go anywhere tomorrow where would it be? A very boring answer I'm afraid - but Paris.... with my family please…. in a heartbeat. We have spent some of the best times to date with our two boys over the years in that incredible city. So lovely and inspiring on so many levels.

Any tips for balancing work travel and home life? To me that’s easy.... we have always raised a family 50/50. We just juggle our time and step up if someone is busier than the other at any given time. Me traveling really has little effect, as I'm never away all that long. Be a good cook and know how to work a vacuum cleaner is a must!! 

You live in a beautiful part of Victoria near Bells Beach. What do you love most about your area (apart from being one of the worlds most famous surf breaks)? I love the quiet! Going to sleep with the sound of the ocean can't be topped. We use to live in Melbourne but I think I would struggle to go back. 

Favourite cafe in your home town? Torquay Larder. Great coffee and lovely owners... I'm dead without good coffee.

Favourite corner of your home? The corner where I built my outdoor shower. Day or night ( after a surf ) its the best thing ever. 

We love to hear about your favourite eat, read, loves - can you share a few of your favs with us:
  • EATING:  Having a huge Indian moment. 
  • READING: The Invention Of Wings - by Sue Monk Kidd is a beautiful book by an amazing writer.
  • LOVING: A little warmth in the air. Easier for getting in the water when it 12 deg!!
You are about to launch a new portrait book. Can you tell us a little bit about that?  Its a portrait book for Hardie Grant.  Its called HEROES ' in their own words ' Essentially it will be a coffee table book of portraits of well known ( and not so well known ) people talking about their lives and growing up. 

What would you love to do that you haven't already done as a photographer? Photograph the Tour De France. I was earmarked to do it this year but pulled out for various reasons. Next year is looking good - I just love it.

If you could photograph anyone in the world, alive or dead who would it be and why? Arnold Newman, AGAIN!! He was so inspiring , no one has come close to date. He changed everything for me from that day forward.He also taught me the art of humility.....Two quotes that always ruminate "Don't ever get ahead of yourself....we are just working stiffs" &  "Photography is 1% talent - 99% moving furniture". And on every shoot - bar none I always say to myself "what would Arnold do".  

{A very special thank you to Jules for taking the time to be part of this interview. When someone asked me today jokingly and said 'what would you like to be when you grow up" I can safely say a 'Photographer'. I don't care how long it takes to learn and learn and keep learning, I will keep practicing. Getting to talk to inspiring people like Julian Kingma makes the journey worth the while. I wanted to finish the interview with this inspiring video of Arnold Newman. What a legend indeed }

You can find about more about Julian Kingma over at Kingma & Kingma

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