By: R. Caligaris
Julian Plowden, former Jordan Vocational graduate and Columbus resident, is an artist that blends architectural photography and photojournalism into romantic photo scenes. Julian majored in Architecture, Neuroscience Education and Media Studies at Kennesaw State University where he developed as an artist while making his thesis portfolio. The “once-in-a-lifetime” photo moments he captures are meant to evoke feelings of “timelessness” and wonder. His style often incorporates lines, angles, parallels, precision and juxtapositions between buildings and people as a reference to his love of architecture and design.
Julian describes the feeling of taking a photograph as “forever in the moment”, nodding to the movie- like scenes which he has experienced. Drawing and drafting in Architecture heavily influenced his work. He feels like photography is a game of “Quick Draw” where he has a minute, maybe even seconds, to spot and capture a masterpiece. Pure fun. Julian’s award-winning work has been featured in The Louvre Museum in Paris, France, “Best of Atlanta,” NPR, Emory University MARBL Collection, Harvard University, University of Alabama and more.
How did your photography journey begin? I started school majoring in Architecture and I used The Coca-Cola Scholarship to purchase a camera to document my portfolio. After that, I let my natural inclinations take control.
When you were a student a Jordan Vocational here in Columbus, what did you want to do after graduation? Are you where you thought you would be now? I was really focused on going to college as first-generation college student. I was adopted at 2-years-old, so I've always tried to plan my dream life and family. To be honest, I think if the education system was better handled I'd be farther. I've been disappointed in the inequity I've noticed, but I still can say I'm happy. I just want to make ways for other students.
Can you describe your style? Yes and no- the reason why is because I aim for aesthetics at times, like the idea of "time travel", which often comes across in my photographs, but I also may apply architectural composition specifying how I compose a subject against an environment. When you add it up, there are many layers of analysis that keep a viewer coming back, like "Why did he put that shadow there?” and how you unconsciously view a photograph for its sense of beauty. I play with motifs like this so my photos may even seem like a collage of ideas...well, to me at least.
Are there any photographers who have influenced you? I'll name some you may know and don't know for fun: Deborah Willis for her scholarship and wisdom, Faisal Mohammad for his risks, The great Henri-Cartier Bresson for his philosophy, Robert Frank and William Klein for pushing the genre.
How has Columbus influenced you? Columbus has made me more observant in a different manner- It's not like Atlanta where I've done most of my work and there aren't many tall building backdrops or crevice alleyways. Instead, I have found joy in composing the seemingly mundane. I surprise myself often by how I can turn "little big town moments" into fine art.
What's the best thing about photography? Feeling like you're in a movie...but I guess movies are based on real life....so making myself feel more alive? Discovering the joy of the unknown and unexpected through vision.
Which living person(s) do you most admire? Another tough one, I only want to give an answer that matters so I'll say the MIT Media Lab founder Nicholas Negroponte, John Maeda, Mayor Michael Tubbs and Stephen Colbert.
Tell us about the role of social media in your career? I could do a movie about social media; from going viral for my work, to being targeted online afterwards by "Russian spies", but mostly I'll say it's been a double-edged sword. I've connected with literally MILLIONS of people by now through social media virality, but it can be hard to see how it affects you immediately until one day you get a call and your photos are showing up somewhere in Paris on a friend's computer. Or I'm being called by a gallery in Los Angeles. It's not an overpowered tool though, more like a mystery bag that you never know what you'll get out of once you put something in....it's fun for sure, and nerve-racking at the same time.
What is the moment you are looking to capture when you are shooting protest photography? Something that I want to specifically remember or convey to someone else later. In 100 years, people may never know what you thought or what you said unless you recorded it somewhere, and photos feel like I'm snatching pieces of reality and making reality, in a historical sense, at the same time. I don't try to stick to a motif or signature, but I'm always trying to have fun and evoke emotion.
What is the most difficult part of shooting protests? Predicting where the action you want to capture will be and sometimes even having to choose between those fleeting moments when many possibilities are there.
The colors in your images are often muted and reminiscent of images from the 60s – how does this stylistic choice impact your work? I think the dominating feeling would be "reflection" because I blur the line between what is expected. It's like a vague feeling of missing something and familiar- ity. It may evoke thoughts of history, time or even other artists like Norman Rockwell.
What do you aim to express through your photography? Design Intelligence. I just want a better designed world.
What advice would you give to photographers who are just starting out in this genre? Compare yourself to the masters, research and cultivate your interests.
What are you focusing on right now, in your work and photography? I could say a lot here, but I'd summarize it by saying that I'm focusing on connecting with those people who're pushing the boundaries of art, innovation and technology.