Meet Julien Lombardi, an artist who uses photography as a tool for experimentation and visual investigation.

His series, ‘L’inachevé‘ (‘The Unfinished’), a journey through Armenia’s state of constant transformation since the collapse of the Soviet Union, won our SATORI Magazine open call. Look out for Julien’s feature in their second issue!

Tell us a little bit about your winning work, L’inachevé. What inspired you to make this series?

During one of my trips, I visited the national archives. I wanted to look at photographs that portrayed the birth of the young nation and its first decades of existence. The photography collection is located outside the centre of Yerevan, the capital, in an industrial district. Much to my surprise, I found that the Soviet period was fairly well documented in Russian – now a foreign language – but there were no photographs of independent Armenia. These images exist, of course, but not at that public institution. How is that possible? What does that signify?

Clearly, it is impossible to resolve the question of the missing images or document a memory still in the making. Attempting to do so would be as pointless as trying to catch one’s shadow. All the same, this allegory provides a means of skirting certain conventions, inviting us to a territory where the uncertainty of what is seen allows for speculation and outlines a collective vision.

There is so much depth to your images. How do you establish each shot? Do you direct your subjects?

The project serves to document the complex processes that Armenian society is undergoing, but from a sentimental rather than factual perspective. The sense of a simulacrum that one feels when viewing the images is well founded – that’s exactly what they are. I chose a distance and composition that heighten the theatrical dimension of the locations photographed, which serve as the scenery in a play that is going to be acted out – nothing is outside the frame. To reinforce that impression, I focused on places where imagery is created every day – film studios, television studios and theatres – a sort of dual reflection that alters the documentary value of the work or in some cases even eliminates it. The portraits were also produced from ‘constructed’ (neither staged nor unposed) moments. I asked people to repeat the gestures that had made me want to photograph them, which lent an artificial tension to the images, because the subjects were portraying themselves at a specific moment.

There is so much depth to your images. How do you establish each shot? Do you direct your subjects?

The project serves to document the complex processes that Armenian society is undergoing, but from a sentimental rather than factual perspective. The sense of a simulacrum that one feels when viewing the images is well founded – that’s exactly what they are. I chose a distance and composition that heighten the theatrical dimension of the locations photographed, which serve as the scenery in a play that is going to be acted out – nothing is outside the frame. To reinforce that impression, I focused on places where imagery is created every day – film studios, television studios and theatres – a sort of dual reflection that alters the documentary value of the work or in some cases even eliminates it. The portraits were also produced from ‘constructed’ (neither staged nor unposed) moments. I asked people to repeat the gestures that had made me want to photograph them, which lent an artificial tension to the images, because the subjects were portraying themselves at a specific moment.

What is the most challenging part of your process?

I had a very specific process to realize this project. I borrowed certain tools from my background in ethnology to collect fragments of life stories and subjectivities, as well to reconsider my own point of view. With the aid of my interpreter, Lilith, I interviewed people spanning a variety of professions, ages and locations. We spoke freely about their lives, history and future. I posed each of them the question, “In your opinion, what should I photograph to portray the issues your country is facing?”

Their answers, which were equally insightful and unexpected, guided me to places of which I never would have dreamt – the Institute of Nuclear Physics, Geodesic Centre and National Assembly, amongst others – places unaccustomed to peering eyes. This approach involved tedious tasks – requesting authorisation, negotiating access, making appointments, meeting with people and explaining the project – which curtailed spontaneity but provided a wide-ranging view of society and enabled me, metaphorically at least, to see Armenia from the perspective of those who are building the country.

For a series like this, what’s in your kit?

I had a very heavy analog camera, the Mamiya RZ67 with two lenses, a light meter, a tripod and lot of rolls of Kodak Portra.

For a series like this, what’s in your kit?

I had a very heavy analog camera, the Mamiya RZ67 with two lenses, a light meter, a tripod and lot of rolls of Kodak Portra.

Have you always had this documentary-style focus or did you start somewhere else?

Not at all, I always change my approach and my aesthetic for each project. In this case, with a matter of missing pictures and suggesting archives for the future, the documentary style was absolutely appropriate. In my opinion, what is constant or drawing me in my work, it is the thematics of researches, not a visual style. I mean, a visual language should be construct in contact with a specific subject. You can have look to my former series and check that I change my technique for each project and I really want to keep working like that because it is so exciting to create new approaches and to deconstruct some habit.

Are there any other disciplines that inspire your work?

Starting out, my main influences were electronic music and science fiction. Now it really depends on my research and the project I’m working on. I take the liberty to look for inspiration pretty much anywhere: scientific imagery, Land Art, classic paintings, movies, etc.

Are there any other disciplines that inspire your work?

Starting out, my main influences were electronic music and science fiction. Now it really depends on my research and the project I’m working on. I take the liberty to look for inspiration pretty much anywhere: scientific imagery, Land Art, classic paintings, movies, etc.

What advice would you give to any emerging photographer looking to follow in your footsteps?

Don’t believe there are some golden rules to follow. Do what you want but give you a lot of time to make it. Creative processes are very complex and it’s very long to create a body of work. So, respect yourself and the audience, that’s impossible to realize a project in a week, I guess it’s preferable to live at length with your ideas and feelings to pass it in your pictures.

Do you have anything exciting lined up?

“L’inachevé” is now a book !

Do you have anything exciting lined up?

“L’inachevé” is now a book !

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