Q&A with Julia Arstorp - Photographer/Storyteller May 04 2023

long way home

How would you define your artwork, technique, and paper application?

small kingdoms breathing book
I see myself primarily as a photographer and a storyteller. I first discovered photography in the early 70s, growing up in Southern California with a darkroom in the garage. I loved the hands-on creative experience of the darkroom. After moving back east in the early 90s, I started a niche portrait business, shooting only black and white film. Twenty-five years later, I closed my shop to focus on fine artwork. At this time, I was shooting digitally and liked the freedom it gave me to create in Photoshop and Lightroom. Yet I still wanted that dark room experience. I took a class with Tricia Rosenkilde at the International Center for Photography to learn Platinum Palladium printing and taught myself how to print cyanotype. Printing platinum palladium and cyanotype was like stepping into another world and brought back the creative hands-on experience of traditional darkroom work. Two years ago I took a bookmaking workshop with Susan Kae Grant and began creating handmade books. One key takeaway from this workshop was the importance of choosing papers with tactile qualities that support the images and storyline of the book.

I feel my images work best as part of a story, and books allow me to be that storyteller.

memories found
small kingdoms breathing book 2

What influences inspire you and why?

boys of summer
Family history and childhood memories inspire my work. I studied history in college and enjoy researching the past. Both my parents died in the last ten years, and while closing their home, I discovered family photos, letters, and small heirlooms, including my grandparents' spectacles, fans from the 1800s, wedding dresses, and calling cards.
cousin ellen
These motivated me to research the history of my family, as well as use my own childhood memories for inspiration. I often collaborate with my daughter for many of my images. It allows a way to tell a story from the perspective of three generations. I recently photographed my daughter in my mother’s wedding dress from 1949, which was a bit surreal; I doubt I could have done it with anyone else. There is a project, on my website called Aunt Lizzie's Ginger Snap Recipe. I found recipes belonging to my great-great aunt, who raised my grandfather and his brothers. The cookie recipe was greasy, fingerprinted, with accompanying doodles by a child. It made me wonder what these boys and their lives had been like. I researched and found images of the boys as they grew up. I scanned pictures, created archival pigment prints on Awagami bamboo paper, and then printed cyanotype botanicals over the pigment print - one of my favorite projects to date.

How has paper influenced your work?

sunday best
I’ve enjoyed experimenting with papers when printing, not only platinum palladium and cyanotype prints but also archival pigment prints. I ordered the Awagami Paper Sampler and found one that worked brilliantly for cyanotypes. I also experimented with Unryu from Paper Connection for cyanotypes which I loved. Recently I discovered another paper, Echizen Frost Off White, from the Pastiche Paper Subscription, that's a new favorite for my cyanotypes.

Plans for the future

My hope this year is to make handmade books for several of the projects on my website. I've completed three with ideas for several more. In addition, I've begun researching a larger project on old family recipes.

Reading my great-grandmother’s handwritten recipes, when the first line is, "wake up early and start the fire", is just amazing.

Julia can be found: