Wonderland.

JULIAN VASSALLO’S SELF-PORTRAITS TAKE US TO THE WOODS

The deep, dark, mostly-NSFW woods, that is.

Julian Vassallo photography

In real life, Julian Vassallo describes himself as a shy, calm guy with a fondness for heavy metal music. But in his startling and gothic visual world, the 22-year-old photographer and architecture student transforms himself into a eerie, unreal subject of gloom. The Malta resident spoke to us from Italy, where he is currently enrolled in a special Erasmus programme at the University of Rome.

What got you interested in photography?

When I was younger I wasn’t into art at all. In fact, I was a very mathematical kind of person and intrigued by physics and biology. As I got older, my fascination with the beta-world began to diminish and I signed myself up for a study in architecture. I didn’t know zip about architecture though and hadn’t even heard of Leonardo da Vinci… To make matters worse, I was terrible at drawing and miserably failed the first year. That said, I persisted and when we had to do a photography project, I really go into that. Again, I sucked at first. I didn’t have a clue how a camera worked, but my desire to improve my skills was untameable.

You caught our eye with your project, ‘The 52 Weeks Challenge‘. Tell us how you got started on that.

Well, in all honesty, a friend of mine who is also a photographer told me that a good way to start your photography career is by regularly posting pictures on Flickr. So I did, by mostly submitting self-portraits on a weekly basis, hence the name ’52 Weeks Challenge’.

Is there a concept behind these self-portraits?

Not necessarily, I’m just fascinated by nature and by the human body. When I began, I hardly had any contacts in the art world to reflect and exchange ideas with, so I basically just figured I might as well shoot myself. It’s less hassle…

Julian Vassallo 1
Which photographers are important points of reference for you?

Without doubt, that would have to be Kris Micallef. He’s an extremely talented and established fashion photographer here in Malta. We’ve become friends recently and are planning to do a project together.

Do you happen to have any unlikely inspirations besides the physical body and our earthly environs?

When I was younger I was really into fantasy movies such as Lord of the Rings. I loved to get lost in another world. Growing up in Malta, I’ve never been surrounded by lakes, forests and the outdoorsy life. Malta is quite a dense country, so maybe this submersing myself in flora is my way of compensating.

What’s your ultimate ambition in life?

These days I’m quite confused really, because I don’t know whether I want to fully immerse myself in the architectural world or become a full time photographer. I hope I can be both.

How about combining the two?

In fact, I have loads of architectural models that I could easily blend in with my photography. But my ultimate desire would be to mix architecture, photography and fashion.

What would you say makes you most happy in life?

Fame or becoming filthy rich leaves me cold. As cheesy as it may sound, seeing my family and friends happy, makes me happy.

Happiness euphoria sounds legit. What do you hope the future has in stake for you?

I love fashion and would really like to do editorials with designers, stylists and the whole enchilada. For now, I’m mainly focussing on perfecting the art of self-portraits and finding ways to combine this with my love for architecture.

Julian Vassallo photography

Julian Vassallo photography

Julian Vassallo photography

Words: Claire van den Berg

JULIAN VASSALLO’S SELF-PORTRAITS TAKE US TO THE WOODS

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