Our sixty first interview in this new series of intimate interviews is with talented mobile photographer and artist Julie Denning from San Francisco, United States. This is an interview that has really resonated with me, perhaps because I found many similarities to my own; her work ethics – necessities, her health issues, her general outlook on others, all of this touched me and I will be eternally grateful to Denning for completing this interview, because it helps me to grow closer to her and I think that’s a rather nice place to be. Enjoy!
To read the other published interviews in this series including artists, Adria Ellis, Rino Rossi, Mehmet Duyulmus, Alexis Rotella, Lou Ann Sanford Donahue, Irene Oleksiuk, Kerry Mitchell, Filiz Ak, Dale Botha, Lisa Mitchell, M. Cecilia Sao Thiago, Deborah McMillion, Rita Colantonio, Amy Ecenbarger, Jane Schultz, Anca Balaj, Joyce Harkin, Armineh Hovanesian, Kate Zari Roberts, Vicki Cooper, Peter Wilkin, Barbara Braman, Becky Menzies, Sukru Mehmet Omur, Sarah Bichachi, Michel Pretterklieber, Alon Goldsmith, Judy Lurie Whalberg, Andrea Bigiarni, Sean Hayes, Oola Cristina, Kathleen Magner-Rios, Linda Toki, Deb Field, Emilo Nadales, Lydia Cassatt, David Hayes, Jean Hutter, Frederic Deschênes, Mark Schnidman, Fatma Korkut, Fleur Schim, Rob Pearson-Wright, Dieter Gaebel, James Ellis, Marco P Prado, Jeronimo Sanz, Manuela Matos Monteiro, Bleu Chemiko, Manuela Basaldella, Stefania Piccioni, Luis Rodríguez, Marilisa Andriani (@mitrydate) Mayte Balcells (@artofmayte), Nicole Christophe, Jennifer Graham, Cathrine Halsør, Paul Toussaint, Carol Wiebe and myself, go here.
All images ©Julie Denning
What was your childhood or earliest ambition?
As a child growing up I always wanted to be a teacher. I had wonderful teachers that impacted my life in so many positive ways, I wanted to do the same for others. At a very early age many of my teachers taught me the importance of critical thinking.
I remember receiving a high school letter for music ( I played the flute). I received a letter for debate as well. In art, I passed all 3 levels of certification from a National Organization in wood, fabric and walls as a Decorative Artist in my twenties.
I started working at 14. I worked in a sweat shop assembling earrings and took home piece work as well as an usher at a movie theater. I grew up in poverty and my earnings contributed to the household. When I graduated high school and started college I worked as a part-time sales clerk for the Emporium Department Store in San Francisco and a teller in a bank. I needed two part-time jobs to put myself through college. I will always be grateful for my job at the Emporium. I could work nights and weekends around my school schedule.
Private or State school?
I attended Public School (State) from kindergarten through 12th grade.
University or Work?
I did both. Looking back I do not know how I managed it. I lived on my own, worked two 4 hour part-time jobs and went to school full-time. I graduated with a degree in history from the University of California at Berkeley. I worked in County Social Services and retired after 30 years as a social worker and additionally for 25 years I worked as a Decorative Artist painting and faux finishing walls. I also taught at paint stores and quilt shops. In my forties I became interested in Web Design and went back to school. I made web sites as a second job for Decorative Artists until the industry started to decline. Now I have artistic fun creating on the IPad.
Who was or still is your mentor?
I had a Professor in College who mentored me and encouraged me to attend graduate school in England to pursue further research on the lives of of nineteenth century working class women. Unfortunately that did not happen due to finances and I had to start a full-time job. With regards to artistic endeavours I never had a one on one mentor, but had numerous wonderful teachers.
How physically fit are you?
I was average, I enjoyed walking, biking, skiing and ballet. In my late 20’s I had a series of massive blood clots from a genetic blood disorder passed from my grandmother on my mother’s side and my grandfather on my father’s side. I was told there was a good chance I would not make it to 35. Due to medication and strict compliance I am still here and grateful every day.
Ambition or talent: What matters more to success?
Ambition has so much to do with success. Not only in the art world, but everywhere else as well. Opportunities do not just fall in your lap, you have to pursue them. I am sure there are thousands of masterful unpublished novels, as well as incredible art that has never seen a gallery wall. Like the artist’s patrons of times past, artists need agents and reps in today’s world. Not everyone has skills in marketing or for that matter even the desire to pursue the marketing aspect. Success often implies some kind of popularity and or monetary reward, but success can also be very personal. If you achieve or reach realistic personal goals then you can also achieve success. That is where I am.
How politically committed are you?
As soon as I realised I could make a difference I became politically active. The pursuit of gender equality has been a passion of mine and began at an early age marching in public protests, getting petitions signed, attending various county and state meetings. If labels were important I would consider myself a feminist. Unfortunately during the last few years I watched it transform into a term with a negative connotation. I believe in equality for all, but often my scope of interest needs parameters so I can realistically pursue it, one thing at a time. There has been tremendous progress, yet here I am in 2019 and the Equal Rights Amendment in the United States has yet to be ratified after more than 40 years. Such a sad commentary on the words “equality for all”.
What would you like to own that you don’t currently possess?
What’s your biggest extravagance?
Computer equipment and art supplies.
In what places are you happiest?
I am happiest at the ocean. Growing up in San Francisco I spent many a day at Ocean Beach. It was usually foggy, but I loved and still love the sound of the waves, the smell of the ocean and the sound of the fog horns. Whenever I go to the ocean I feel at home.
What ambitions do you still have?
I still want to learn and grow and improve my mobile photography as well as learn more painterly techniques on the iPad. I love hands on collage and spend a lot of time on that as well and I am working on improving my digital collage techniques.
What drives you on?
I have always been self-motivated and my creative side has always given me purpose. I get up everyday and always learn something new.
What is the greatest achievement of your life so far?
I have a wonderful, kind and caring daughter. I like to think I had some small part in her being who she is.
What do you find most irritating in other people?
Overly judgmental individuals. I abide by the view, “Before you judge a person, walk a mile in their shoes”.
If your 20 year old self could see you now, what would she think?
Things did not go quite as planned, but close enough.
Which object that you’ve lost do you wish you still had?
I went on a trip to Scandinavia and lost all my digital pictures. Photographs and external hard drives with my pictures are the only material things in my household that I truly value.
What is the greatest challenge of our time?
Do you believe in an afterlife?
Not in the literal religious sense of the word. I believe I should be the best I can be for the time that I have.
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