Julian Lennon has always felt that he has observed life differently, perhaps because his path through life has been so unusual. Nothing could be more apparent, as he reveals to the viewer his keen eye for composition and his gift for capturing an intimate moment. Julian seeks to depict his personal journey as an artist in the midst of unique life experiences. Encouraged by the success of his first-ever exhibition of fine art photography, Timeless, which took place in New York City in 2010, Julian Lennon has found his place in the fine art community with multiple acclaimed exhibits including Alone, Horizon¸ and currently, Cycle, showing images from the South China Sea through the lens of the Leica V-Lux. Lennon will be exhibiting his work from September 9th until October 17th at the Leica Gallery in Los Angeles.
How did you first become interested in Leica?
One is always curious about what other people do, and what their equipment is, etc. I was going on a trip, several in fact, that would take me all over the South China Sea, so a friend suggested the Leica V-Lux, as a good all-rounder, which it certainly proved to be. And also, when I was offered the Leica Gallery exhibition in Los Angeles, obviously I was going to want to use my Leica for the exhibition shots… Would be rude not to!
Your exhibition at the Leica Gallery in Los Angeles will mainly show your work done with the Leica V-Lux at the South China Sea; can you describe what the project entailed and your creative objectives for this project?
There was no original plan, except to cruise the South China Sea, and take it all in and take as many pictures as I could as I wasn’t sure what I was looking for. It was only after editing the 4000 images down to approximately 50, that I found the concept, and again, through editing, the pictures talked to me, and told me what needed to be shown. It’s now become a story, a journey, into the lives of the people that live on the border of the South China Sea.
A handful of the images you’ve shared highlight general rural activities including the use of rustic boats, canoes, and farms. How did you immerse yourself into these communities and what’s your perception of the places you visited?
I found ‘River Life’ fascinating. It’s the polar opposite to how we live. These people are in a position to ‘move’ house, whenever they feel like it, where ever their trade takes them. It’s a unique position to be in, but also not the easiest life by any means, so although I may be painting a rather romantic image of it, which it sometimes can be, it’s quite the opposite. I was immersed in the lifestyle as much as time would allow me to, but I was traveling from country to country, pretty much on a daily basis. So tried to capture a little something of all the locations I found myself in.
Why “Cycle”? How can you compare it with other work you have done such as “Alone” or “Horizon”?
‘Cycle’ refers to many levels & many elements of life. This work is perhaps a slightly deeper look into the lifestyles and cycle of people’s lives, from country to country, from land to sea in the South China Sea. In reality I don’t want to, and nor do I believe there is a necessity for comparisons between bodies of work, they are all each to their own, with their own identity, look, feel and own sense of empathy.
You used the Leica V-Lux (Typ 114) for this project; can you share your thoughts in regards to performance and versatility of the camera’s functions? Did it fulfill your expectations?
It certainly did and more. As an all-in-one, it enabled me to grab it quickly out of the bag, focus, zoom, and shoot in a split second, which is how I operated on this trip, either camera in hand, or ready to roll within seconds. As the majority of the images for this entire exhibition, were taken ‘on-the-go’.
Is there any particular reason why you chose some of the images to be in black and white, rather than in color?
I let the images talk to me. There was definitely a sense of timelessness during my visit. For the most part I could have taken half the images 30 years ago and you wouldn’t have known the difference. So I wanted to relate that and in doing so decided to go with my own desaturated version of black and white. As every collection I create, has it’s own look and feel. They have to, otherwise everything would look rather flat, at least through my eyes.
The black and white images show a strong contrast in the water and clouds. Was there any post-processing of the images?
Some, always a little with me, as I want to bring out the best within an image, and if I have to push certain elements in post to achieve that, then I’ll do that. I’m not afraid to do that, as I consider myself more a visual artist, than a true, or conventional photographer.
Many of the people you photographed are shown with a mask, especially the ones on the motorcycles or in the market. Was this something you wanted to highlight as pertaining to the topic of pollution in China?
Not initially. I was more amazed at just how these people looked, as well if the masks being there for health benefits, they were certainly a fashion statement, too. Which is why I decided to highlight them, but seeing what they have to deal with day to day on the pollution front, is also a very serious issue.
How was the curation process for the exhibition at the Leica Gallery?
Hell… 😉 It’s the first time I’ve ever had to edit that many images, down to something that would work within the Leica Gallery space. Literally editing day and night for more than three months. It was all-consuming. I basically had no life outside of editing this collection down and also because there were time constraints and there are 4 collections within the exhibition, as such: Landscapes, River Life, Cycle of Life, and Seascapes (all working titles).
Looking ahead, what other projects will you be working on in the near future? Are you using other Leica cameras as well?
I have so many collections already, which will be released over the coming 6-12 months, that I’ve been editing on the side, and am due to exhibit at ‘Scope’ Art Basel Miami again. I’m also planning on my first show in China and possibly India next year, so I’ve much to keep me busy. Yes, I have a few lovely Leica’s at home, but for the grab-and-go kind of work I do, the V-Lux (Typ 114) has been my easiest companion to work with so far. Aside from that, I travel a lot with my foundation doing charity work, which has enabled me to have exhibitions like ‘Horizon’ which took me so far, to places like Ethiopia, Kenya, Colombia, and soon I’ll be heading off to Nepal, as the WFF was part of an earthquake relief campaign, initially put together by ‘Music for Relief’. We’re going to see if and how we’ve made a difference to the earthquake survivors and if there’s anything more we can do to help.
Lastly, is there anything else you’d like to add for our readers to know?
Try to lead a happy and appreciative life and help as many people as you can along the way.
Thank you Julian!
To find out more about Julian Lennon’s life and history please visit his official website and follow him on Instagram, Facebook and Twitter. The Leica Gallery Los Angeles exhibition opens on September 9th through October 17th.