Name: Julia Stotz
Current City: Los Angeles, CA
Hometown: Monterey, CA
Occupation: Freelance food and still life photographer
California-native, Julia Stotz left Chicago for the first eight years of her adulthood and all the while, she continued to be puzzled at why people wanted to live in Los Angeles. It wasn't until she returned to her roots after midwest living, that she finally understood all the city had to offer.
"I've been able to explore more closely the connection this city has with food, nature, fruit trees, produce, etc, and the new style of restaurants here that are also focusing on those same things. I've always had a love for food culture, but this city has allowed me to carve my interests into what I photograph. It has let me shoot more of the things I'm passionate about," adds Julia.
Now, you can find Julia trekking all over this city (and the world) photographing what (and who) she loves.
Read on to discover more of Julia's journey.
What attracted you to the world of photography and how would you define your style?
I think from high school on, I found photography as a really fluid way to tell a story – a way to create something new from actual objects and locations and make a unique point of view. As I continued to study photography in college, I realized that it was a great way to create a still life out of my favorite subject matter, food. It allowed me to explore the many ways that people experience food and their overall connection to it. My style of photography is a little more relaxed, candid, and unkempt. Regardless if I'm shooting in the studio or on location, I want there to be a realness and a lived-in quality to the setting. I focus closely on the subtly of colors and light that are shown in each frame as a way to add value to the objects in the composition. The connection between my still-life vignettes and their lifestyle moments try to tie together an emotional photographic story throughout my work.
Walk us through a day on a shoot with you.
There are so many different types of photo assignments. Some are editorial assignments on location, where I show up with just my equipment and photograph a chef and the restaurant's favorite dishes on my own. Other assignments are large ad jobs that take lots of production planning, pre-pro calls, and a huge team of 15-20 people to execute. Most commonly, my shoots at least have a food stylist, a prop stylist, an assistant, and a digital tech on set. I have my own studio for small to medium productions, and when it's a large production with the client on set, I rent a photo studio elsewhere in LA. The shoot day ends up being an entire collaboration of tasks to get the final shot list created. The most fun comes from the experimenting and play between creative skill sets and the exchange of ideas while trying to work through a shot list.
When did you first kick off Lady Makers and what's the motivation behind the project?
Lady Makers started when I realized that most of my friends were incredibly talented women, and I wanted a reason to capture people who create handmade objects. I think I was getting burnt out on the technology side of being a photographer and I wanted to be around people who made work by hand for most of their day. After I started showing the project, I started to get future paid assignments to photograph Lady Makers that would then incorporate into this project.
You've worked with a handful of great companies from Google and American Express to Moon Juice and Chareau. What’s the dreamiest photoshoot you've had to date?
My favorite job so far has to be an ad campaign I did with California Avocados. I had a sizable budget where I could hire an amazing team, and the agency let me help create the concepts with them from the beginning. While on set, everyone was allowed to experiment and play freely throughout the process and their trust allowed us to shoot really amazing images – this made the studio environment feel welcoming and fun. It reflects in the work when you really believe in a company's values, as well that it makes you want to create really strong, unique content for them. If I could have every job be that seamless, I would never complain about work again! Dream job in all aspects!
How do the city of Los Angeles and individuals who inhabit it fuel your creativity?
Until I moved from Chicago to Los Angeles, I didn't really realize how motivated creative people were in this city. It's a city that's spread apart, with not a lot to inhibit a person from just creating. People hunker down in their little studio habitats and create some of the most inspiring work. It's a city of creative people, all mainly transplanted from another town, all here to expand the type of work they get. It feels open and collaborative, the way only a west coast contemporary landscape can drive motivation. The group of people my husband, Brian Guido, and I have, are all humbly so talented yet supportive. It doesn't feel competitive. Everyone recommends each other for jobs they can't take and collaborates with each other when one wants to test shoot or make new personal work.
Do you have any projects/collaborations on the books you'd like the readers to know about?
I'm photographing the imagery for a new olive oil brand made in California that's incredible and I can't wait for it to be released. I'm also shooting for a few cookbooks this spring.
Once the next few months are done, I'm excited to get back into shooting more personal projects this summer if things slow down a bit. Since moving into my new studio, I'm excited to be able to make work more easily.
When you're not behind a camera, how do you fill your days?
Currently, I'm fixing up the new live/work studio Brian and I just moved into. It's a big task that has stunted the rest of my well-rounded life. But otherwise, in LA you can usually find me cooking, reading, working out or finding my new favorite restaurant in the San Gabriel Valley! And the great thing about LA is that it is a great place for what I also love most, which is travel. Whether it be a road trip, camping, a drive out to the desert or mountains, or jumping on a plane to Japan, after a few months in LA, I always itch for a great trip to balance the city and the heat.
What's one nugget of wisdom you can offer to fellow visionaries, artists and creatives around the world?
Shoot personal work. A lot of it. And collaborate with a lot of people. I've heard a lot of different advice from other creative people, but for me, talking with other women about ideas is probably the most inspiring thing. I get so overwhelmed with love and ideas when I'm around other passionate people! It breaks up the many days working alone in front of a computer, and really puts a value on what's important in life and why we create work. Have ladies night's, make creative collaborations, have coffee dates, test shoots, etc.
Who are some of your greatest influences?
Laura Letinsky has been one of my biggest influences ever since college. Working with her briefly only amplified my love for her work, especially after seeing some of her tricks and inspirations. She created the contemporary tablescape in an art world of classic paintings created by men so long ago. She brought meaning back into women who photograph inanimate objects, and who show food in a different landscape. I also love Spencer Finch, Grant Cornett, Gentl and Hyers, Terrence Caviar, and Miranda July. I've also recently been super inspired by Kerry James Marshall’s retrospective, Jessica Dance’s knitted foods, Ruth Reichl’s novels, and Jessica Koslow’s Everything I Want to Eat cookbook.
If you could have dinner with any woman in history, dead or alive, who would it be and why?
I'd have dinner with my grandma Bert. She passed when I was in college and never saw what I sought out to do with my career. I think her and I would really relate to being independent women, our passion for food and hustling in a man's world. She worked her way up from working small side jobs, to becoming the head assistant to a CEO (because she wasn't allowed to be made partner back then because she was a woman). She had thousands upon thousands of cookbooks from around the world and made about a dozen different types of Christmas cookies each holiday. She was a remarkable woman that I wish knew me as an adult. We would have had incredible conversations about so many things in common!
What are you grateful for?
I'm grateful for my husband, Brian. He's such a talented and inspiring photographer, who's always been supportive of what I do and a perfect equal partner throughout life. I'm grateful for my family who's supported me from the very beginning of my freelance photography career and never doubted that I couldn't achieve it. I'm utterly grateful for all my friends, who are so inspiring, hysterical, and complimentary to my lifestyle. I'm also super grateful for flexible schedules and the ability to casually grab a coffee at 10 am on a Wednesday.
Do you have a personal mantra or quote that inspires you?
"Every fact lay in glory in his mind, a type of the order and beauty of the whole."
I've had this favorite quote for a very long time. It's from an essay that Ralph Waldo Emerson wrote about Henry David Thoreau, published in the Atlantic Monthly in 1962. It just seems to sum up the simplicity of life and how all things are connected within our thoughts and in nature.
Header Image courtesy of Brian Guido