In the days leading up to the COVID-19 pandemic, London-based photographer Julia Fullerton-Batten was busy planning a shoot. Like her previous projects, which draw on the high-production aesthetics of cinema, the plan was to work with a large team including assistants, set designers, prop stylists, and hair and makeup people. Then suddenly, the stay-at-home order sent her and her neighbors into lockdown, postponing these and any other plans.
But this didn’t stop her; Fullerton-Batten was determined to find ways to continue her work. In response, she created Looking Out From Within, a series of portraits featuring Londoners in self-isolation. She explains, “This was when we were in a tight lockdown and only allowed to go out for an hour every day. I knew that as a photographer, I could not just stand around and do nothing. So, I decided to document my community members, looking out from their windows onto a different world.”
To find models, she advertised via social media and in a local West London newsletter. The response was enormous, and for weeks, she photographed people in her area from outside their windows. Shooting mostly during twilight—when natural light illuminates the sky without overpowering artificial light—Fullerton-Batten traveled to her subjects’ homes with her twelve-year-old son Finn, who helped carry her equipment. She explains, “I am used to working with a large crew, which I obviously could not do for this project. However, I wanted these images to be consistent with the cinematic aesthetic of my work. So, I had to re-learn how to make photographs more simply, like in my early days as a photographer.”
In order to achieve her signature aesthetic, Fullerton-Batten paid meticulous attention to detail. Before each shoot, she informally interviewed her subjects to get a sense of their experience, discussed and selected their wardrobe and props for the shoot, and scouted their homes for the perfect window and camera angle. As a result, Looking Out From Within conjures a dreamlike narrative within each image. This eerie feeling particularly resonates in the age of social distancing, where we seem to exist in a world suspended from time.
Editor’s note: We discovered Looking Out From Within in the LensCulture Critics’ Choice Awards 2020. Check out the rest of the winners for more striking photographs!