For photographer Julia Romer, the sky is the limit, and the film camera is her paintbrush. Drawing influence from works of fantasy and photorealistic paintings, she is in love with making pastel and neon cloudscapes similar to watercolor paintings. Thus, she uses her analogue expertise to bring out a variety of sweet-hued colors and palettes hiding in the sky. Little is known about Julia's oeuvre and identity across the web, but we've managed to get an intense one-on-one conversation as she lays out all her cards about her analogue passion.
Hi Julia, welcome to Lomography Magazine! Firstly, tell us, how did you get into film photography? Do you remember the first image you took with a film camera?
To answer that question I have to travel back in time to the early nineties when the world of technology was different from our days now. My memories of this situation are a bit vague but I think it was my 8th birthday. My father bought me this tiny red Kodak compact camera. At the time, film photography was standard and nobody had a digital cam. On my first roll, I shot some funny pictures of my friends. We disguised ourselves with clothes of my mother and just had fun. I still remember my mother had a Polaroid Super Colour 635 CL and this camera I loved the most. It was so nice to see the results immediately.
You shoot a lot of cloudscapes and horizons. For you, what's fascinating about them?
Drifting clouds are coming and going. This permanent change is so fascinating for me. It is a cycle of emergence, change, and disappearance which symbolizes life for me. Sometimes I´m sitting by the lake and photograph clouds in the dawn. At these moments I escape from reality, being completely focused on the here and now. A big influence in my childhood was “The Never Ending Story”. It was so fascinating for me to see the protagonist flying through all these beautiful clouds on a luckdragon. I always wished that for myself too. And maybe I create my own “Fantasia” with the pictures I take because even with only one grain of sand in your hand, every day you can build up a new world on your mind and let it become reality. The same holds true for a camera in your hand and a film roll in your pocket.
You have a knack for pastel and neon skies! May we know why you prefer this style?
For me, colours are very important. They transfer emotions and carry the atmosphere in a picture. It makes such a significant difference if you take a picture in the daytime or if you shoot it by night. I prefer pictures taken at the dawn because the light is so special and the mood so great then. With pastel tones, you always get a kind of harmonious feeling. It transports lightness and softness and lets us feel calm. I love that as much as I love neon colors. With neon tones, you can express some wilder emotions. And I guess, I love both.
Do you have a particular setting, camera, or film preference or for achieving this aesthetic, in case some of our readers would like to take inspiration from your style?
When I shoot film, I prefer expired rolls because the results are still fantastic and so different from non-expired rolls. It is perfect to create a unique style of art. If I have a non-expired film occasionally I make a film-soup with different ingredients. The last film I put in some kind of cocktail and I loved the results. For me, it is really difficult to give any advice because it's an experiment each time for me too.
You never know what it looks like and definitely, that's the exciting thing in it. For me as a person who is permanently curious and loves uncertainty, it's perfect. I had lots of analogue cameras and I can't say that I prefer any of them. Important to me is a wide aperture lens because if you shoot by night and the lighting conditions are difficult you get much better results. Every cam has its own charm and even with a cheaper cam, you can get great results. It depends on the style you want to achieve. And I think responsible for a good picture is the person behind the cam anyway. I shoot pictures with my heart and it's one way to process emotions from my past experiences.
You shoot both in digital and analogue — when do you use digital, and when do you use analogue?
For me, a digital cam is an essential instrument for people who are into photography. With my Nikon D750 I'm more flexible and of course, it has the advantage to see the results of your work immediately. I often take digital pictures and mix them up with my analogue work. Especially when I create my own filters and effects. For that, I love to work with acrylic colors and watercolors but I also use a prism or different kinds of glass. These pictures are always taken digitally because you have to be very fast to catch the right moment and in case the quality of some pictures is not as good as I want them, I can just delete them afterward. I guess I have this predilection for watercolors and acrylic paint from the time I went to the Art high school. My lecturer taught me a lot about combinations of colors and art in general. My digital shots are often very impulsive and I take much more pictures.
The analogue camera I use when I want this kind of warm feeling. It is really hard to describe, but for some reason, analogue pictures have a warmer look to me than the digital ones. When I shoot film I think twice if I fire the shutter or not. The moment of taking pictures gets more intensive and well considered. This can be really good because you deal much more with it. On the other hand, the limitation of a film roll sometimes stops your intuition and you don’t get so emotionally involved because you have to tame your euphoria. I really love to use both and the combination of film and digital effects looks great to me.
As a film shooter, what's the most important element for you when composing an image?
It's my intuition and passion. Somehow I think you have to be obsessed with it. You have to believe in yourself and then it flows out of you by itself. I mainly decide spontaneously according to instinct. I never plan any compositions. When you go out into nature nothing is predictable and if your expectations are too high maybe you just get disappointed at the end of a shooting day, because everything went differently. The most interesting and enchanting pictures are these where the viewer feels an emotional response and gets a deeper look into the subject. It's intriguing to me that photography is a really good training for your eyes and the more and longer you do it, the easier it gets to find the right image section and image composition.
If you could spend some time with any photographer or artist, dead, alive or fictional, who would it be?
I definitely would choose Gerhard Richter. He is a German visual artist. I`m in love with his photorealistic paintings. His way to paint is adorable and distinctive.
What does a normal day for Julia Römer look like?
During the week I work as a jewelry designer and also have another technical job for a big company. As a mother, I take care of my wonderful 13-year-old son with my whole heart.
At the weekend I love to take my cameras out and go for a shoot on my own or with my best friends. I'm really glad to have these two pals who always support me and share the same passion for photography.
The inspiration I get from playing my piano, the books I read or just the occasional daydream of course.
Any on-going project, or other plans you're keen to work on?
Yeah, I'm really looking forward to going to the Lofoten next January. I´m so curious to see all the beauty of these islands. And hopefully, I can catch up with some northern lights. That would be marvelous.
Visit Julia's Instagram for more of her cloudscapes.