Our one hundreth interview in this series of intimate interviews is with talented mobile photographer Juliet Morris, you may know her from her popular Instagram account @howtogrowaboy. This is an interview that could not have been more fitting to celebrate our centenary in this series. It includes all the attributes I value, honesty, humour, emotion and stunning imagery. When reading about Morris’ marriage in the question ‘what is the greatest achievement of your life so far?‘, tears poured down my face, I’m emotional at the moment, but even so, I don’t think it will leave many with a dry eye. My favourite images without doubt, are ones, that I have taken the liberty of labelling fig 1 and fig 2. There’s a real raw Sally Mann feel to them and personally, I would love to see more like this. What Morris has, is the ability to articulate her vision in crystal clear luminous language. 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, 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 Wahlberg, Andrea Bigiarini, 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 HalsørPaul Toussaint, Carol Wiebe, Julie Denning, Kim Clayton (@berleyart), Karen Messick, Serap Utaş, MaryJane Rosenfeld, Paul Suciu, Susan Latty (@pause.and.breathe),John Nieto, Phyllis Shenny, Joy Barry, Max Lies Derdonk, Rita Tipunina, Violet Martins, Nizzar Ben Chekroune, Lynette Sheppard, Paul-Andre Hamel, Rejane Rubino, Susan Detroy, Rosalie Heller, Wayman Stairs, Cintia Malhotra, Anita Elle, Juta Jazz, Cheryl Tarrant, Hanni König Kaoru Shintaku David Gilbert Jana Curcio, Mary Lorincz Amado Ergana, Francesco Sambati, Philip Parsons, Kathryn Garkut Massimo Bortolini Camilla Crescini Francesca Malagoli Sidonie Petit Dirk Fleischmann, Fiona Christian, Alastair Hooley and myself, go here.
What was your earliest childhood ambition?
The earliest I can remember is that I wanted to be a part of the search and rescue division of the Navy!! Like a super sonic lifeguard. Quite intense. I especially wanted to be a parajumper. Im not sure why I deviated but I’d still like to do that. Perhaps in another life! There are so many things I want to do I don’t think I can squeeze them all into this one.
Hmm…the first time I remember feeling I might actually be a creative person was an art teacher at school genuinely praisingly my work.
But photography wise I think it would have been when I got a first for my degree. I’d come to photography late. I was 25 when I left working on film sets and retrained. That seems so young now but at the time I was a mature student and felt like such a fish out of water. I was genuinely just blagging my way through the first year. I was thinking what am I doing, I know nothing. I’d actually have to go home and look up…what is aperture, what is depth of field…because I didn’t know what anyone was talking about! I’d never done any photography before, it was such a fluke that I got on the course and I felt like a fraud.
Then fast forward a decade I’d had my two kids, who where very small, and I was going through an incredibly difficult time in my personal life. I’d lost so much confidence. Elaine Taylor picked an iPhone image of mine for the AMP community. It was years ago when they still had a website. It really felt like a spark of something again.
My first job was babysitting, then working in pubs and bars was my thing, my go to job. I travelled Australia for a year with my friend and earned my money that way.
My first actual attempt at a career job was when I got back from Australia. It was at a post production company called Martyr Television. Their offices were on Regent street and I was living with my friends in north London. I felt at the time like I was really living the life. Walking down beautiful Regent street every morning. I had to run tapes all over Soho, make tea. It wasn’t glamorous but I also got to meet interesting people and learnt a lot. It was the start of my long, winding journey to work in the movies, that was my dream at the time. I wanted to get on set and work at Pinewood studios. Which I did do eventually.
Private or State school?
When I was growing up, from three till about sixteen, my family moved around for my Dad’s job. We spent most of the time in the Middle East. We were stationed in Dubai, Abu Dubai, Bahrain, Doha and then moved to Greece for five years. So schooling was private. That was the only option unless you learnt the language and went to a sate school. In the Middle East we often attended a British Embassy School but in Greece our school, called ‘Tasis Hellenic International School’, was an American school. There was a small group of us who studied the British system and sat our GCSE’s there except they were called IGSCE’s.
University or Work?
I’m a big believer in work over University. Having been through University twice now I can definitely say that in the creative arena you will end up ahead of the game if you get stuck in to an apprenticeship early on and work your way up. By the time your peers are graduating you have three years of actual experience and contacts on them. They fall into a market place with thousands of others like them and no real life experience, as well as debt. Where you have been learning the trade, meeting people and hopefully earning some money too.
Real life experience counts far and above to the people who are doing the hiring in creative industries. Showing you can pay your dues, put in the hard graft, have the resilience to keep going, thats what people look for. That is certainly the case in film and photography.
That said you can get so much out of University and there are some vocations where its imperative. There was a time when there was much kudos to be gained from a degree, a time when it wasn’t accessible to everyone and to get one meant you had worked really hard. Their accessibility now has devalued them in a way. It used to be that a minority of candidates in the job market would have one and so they would stand out for that. Now its the majority, so the tables have turned and real graft and experience stand out
Who was or is still your mentor?
My mentors are often people I don’t even know, just role models to look to in different areas of life. Like my own imaginary counsel. I add to it when I find someone inspiring and it doesn’t have to be in photography. I kind of collect people who handle life well, with integrity and determination. My imaginary council is diverse, I love to take inspiration widely, I have for example Lynsey Addario the photojournalist, Stormzy and Oprah in mine. I highly recommend making one.I pick the right person for the job and ask what they would do in the situation i’m stuck on. I sound mad I know but it works.
I read all the time, as much as I can squeeze in a day. I’m that person walking along the street reading and walking into lamp posts! Also I listen to A LOT of podcasts with creatives and entrepreneurs. So much so I feel I’ve almost given myself an MBA I’ve listen to so many. They are all like mentors to me really. We are so lucky now that we have so much access to interesting amazing people and their knowledge.
In real life, even though I would love a real photography mentor, I don’t really have one. I would say I have a few trusted friends that I seek consul about my work from.
How physically fit are you?
I don’t know how I’d measure up to a real athlete but I’d like to think I’m pretty fit. I am a huge advocate of physical exercise and working out in whatever way suits you. I’m actually very passionate about it in my life and consider it one of the main pillars of it. It’s very important to me, almost spiritual, like my version of going to church.
Funnily enough I think physical health is so important for mental health and I make it a priority! Its really got me through so many hard times in my life and is a constant that I can always rely on. The mental well being is really what keeps me motivated to do it. I love that you don’t need to rely on anyone for it. As long as you have a pair of trainers you can run anywhere.
I love yoga, spin and HITT/ Cross fit. My first love though is running. There is something so transformational and freeing about it. I’ve often thought, when you get past the awkward, heavy feeling you start out with, that it can be the closest you will ever feel to flying using just your own body. Running defiantly feels like my church. I live in Brighton and there is nothing for me like running next to the sea. I’ve had many ideas and shifted so many problems while running.
How politically committed are you ?
Politically, I think if you knew me you would assume I wasn’t politically motivated. I consciously limit my knowledge of the news as I feel that while being informed is important being inundated is not and we all inundated right now. I have come to see that I am to some degree an empath and can feel things too deeply. So its healthy for me to be careful what I consume news wise as too much can scar me for a week.
I’m not interested in the show of politics, the circus, what I am interested in is how those political decisions affect people at a grass roots level. I’m incredibly interested in sociology and social change. That is the photography that I feel most passionate about, something that tells a story about this experience of being human. How we can share that with each other and perhaps make these stories a catalyst for change or at the very least of connection. I have yet to find photography project like this that I can use my phone to tell but its on my wish list and hope fully coming soon.
Ambition or Talent, what matters more to success?
Oh this is a hard one but i’m going to pick ambition. There are so many talented people languishing on the sidelines because they are either too scared to get out there or they let other things stop them. Lots of insanely talented people don’t reach their potential.
On the flip side, the person with determination, perseverance and most of all resilience, probably will. Depends what you want out of your creativity. It can be fine just doing it for you, that can be success in itself. It depends what you determine success for you. You need to to make sure you’re defining that on your own terms.
I think the fear of putting it out there is huge, the judgment, feeling like a fraud, I certainly know that feeling. But then I always think of the quote “dont die with your music still in you”. I heard it from Wayne Dyer and it plays in my head almost everyday. I think making sure you’re inspired is more important than either ambition or talent really, it will carry you the furthest, it’s what feeds the soul.
What would you like to own that you don’t currently possess?
I have a big project I’m planning and big plans to travel the world with my family and of building this project with them. Its seems so big that its kind of overwhelming and not a little bit pie in the sky but I’m going to keep plugging away at it. Its my ultimate dream.
Better to die trying right? So I guess Id have to say…a private plane! Or maybe
What’s your biggest extravagance?
Coffee and exercise classes. I’m quite low maintenance really. I do like clothes though and I love trainers. I also spend more then I should on going to the movies which is my best escape place, it gives your soul a breather. Photography wise I don’t need much, just my phone, which is the pure beauty and bliss of it. Like a little tech sketch book of creativity. Akin to a writers note book always with you in your pocket.
In which places are you happiest?
I love being outside, I just feel like my best self then and It always helps me when I’m feeling down. Outside with my kids, by the sea, with coffee is just perfect. Though I think I present as an very sociable extravert I really do love being alone. I find that its the way I refuel and sometimes crave it. I always joke that I’m a hermit stuck in an extraverts body!
Others are reading and going to see a movie. Alone in a crowded coffee shop working on my photos or research ideas is pure contentment to me.
What ambitions do you still have?
So many. My goal to travel the world and photograph schools is my biggest ambition. If I achieve that I could die happy. Thats one song that I don’t want still in me.
What drives you on?
My kids drive me on in terms of being a well rounded person who lives and is driven by my values. There’s no one more discerning than children, no one more able to pull you up on your contradictions. You need to be aware all the time that you are modelling behaviour for them. This can be super challenging when you’re dealing with your own internal struggles at the same time.
I only know two things for sure about parenting. They are, that kids are almost certain to not do anything you say but they are equally certain to copy everything you do.
Work wise the drive comes from wanting to express myself, wanting to connect. I think at a base level that’s what we all really seek, to have a voice. Its this little thing that I can do to put a stamp on the world the way I see it. Thats art and expression, in all its forms, at its purest. That it gives people the the opportunity to be seen and share their point of view.
There’s a sense of chasing the images in your head of trying to get them out. For me they often don’t quite turn out how they are in my head, which is a blessing, it activates the chase which keeps propelling you forward. Im a hopeful person that way.
What do you find most interesting in other people?
Other people are endlessly interesting. I love psychology, another thing for another life. Or perhaps when I’m older I might train in a particular therapy, I’m a huge advocator of The Work by Byron Katie. It really has changed my life in a profound way.
Also sociology, why we do what we do as a group, as tribe, how culture is formed. I’m a big Seth Godin fan and one of my favourite books is ‘Queuing for Beginners: The Story of Daily Life from Breakfast till Bedtime’ by Joe Moran.
What is the greatest achievement in your life so far?
My kids of course but really I’d have to say repairing my marriage. We have been together a long time but separated and lived part for five years before moving back in together. Of course you don’t get married anticipating that to happen so it’s a shock. I’m just so proud of how we handled it as it was traumatic and hugely impactful on everyone. I’ve seen friends go through terrible experiences with separation. It really takes the two of you to move beyond your pain and work together while at the same time separating. This can at times seem impossible, especially when you have kids. It truly is a team effort. How do you still be a team when you cant even be together, thats challenging.
Being a single Mum for a time with a baby and a four year old really showed me the strength I had. While at the time it felt traumatic I look back on it with such fondness and pride which is a blessing. Seeing there is always cracks of light even in the darkness. “There is a crack in everything, thats how the light gets in.” – Leonard Cohen.
I really didn’t know what I was going to do with all these photos I was taking of my kids, I just wanted a creative outlet. But as time has gone by I really see this as a body of work, a love letter to my kids. Something that shows them that I was always there, witnessing their journey with them.
Finally, always listening to that whisper of inspiration and doing something even when everyone says you can’t, I’m proud of that.
If your 20 year old self could see you now, what would she think?
She’d think wow that was one hell of a journey you just went through, didn’t see that coming. But boy am I proud of you and boy are you stronger, wiser and better in every way for it. I would see I was stronger then I knew. I would see how important it is to believe in your dreams and trust in your intuition. To get out of your own way and follow the signs from the universe.
Which object that you’ve lost do you wish you’d still had?
Oh I’m famous for losing things!! My friend and I even formed a business idea that we would love to pilot one day actually based on my losing things. Years ago I arrived at the cafe where I was to meet her, it was pouring ran that day and my soggy 3 year old was trailing behind here. I was exasperated cause I’d just lost another scooter. I reeled off to her the things I’d lost that week alone and we thought hang on…why don’t we find a solution for this.
I guess its made me quite good at letting go of things. Losing my phone is the biggest nightmare cause then I can’t take pictures!! I’ve done that a lot. I have a cool strap now so you can hang your phone from you like a bag which has helped no end. Other than that there was a sleeveless leather jacket that I still miss.
What is the greatest challenge of our time?
Realising we are all the same, that we are all connected, that if we could just stop fighting and work together we could try and halt the damage we have done to our planet.
Do you believe in an afterlife?
Yes. I guess since I’ve been going on about all the other things I want to do in other life I hope there is.
If you had to rate your life satisfaction so far, out of ten,what would it be?
I’m getting to a place where I can say 10 and it have no bearing on my actual circumstances at all. To fully grasp that happiness is within and that its a choice we make.
Do you know up until very recently it was thought that we were the only animals in this kingdom who have the power of metacognition, the ability to contemplate their own thoughts. Isn’t that amazing, that no matter what, we have been given the freedom to choose what we think. I feel that most people feel that they don’t have a choice, that circumstances they face are out of their control. To know you can always choose how you see it is liberating. Its a challenge but thats the goal.
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