text by Mike Krim
I first met Julia Fox two years ago in Manhattan. As I scanned the floor trying to figure out how much longer I felt like subjecting myself to $20 drinks and if “operation get rich girlfriend” was going to become an actual reality, I noticed from the corner of my eye a gorgeous brunette with an hour glass figure draped in sparkly diamonds, controlling her little corner of the room. As I thought to myself, “who the hell is this chic,” I immediately noticed her Man Ray tribute tattoo, inspired by his photograph of Kiki de Montparnasse with a violin grill superimposed on her back. I walked over, introduced myself, and immediately she informed me she was in the company of an African Prince. She filled my glass with expensive champagne and for whatever reason we discussed abortions, which offered an amazing and entertaining five minutes. Operation "get rich girlfriend" was a Benghazi-like failure, but at least walked out with a new number searing a hole in my pocket. Moving forward, Julia has been nothing short of controversy and success over the last couple years. She has been featured on various fashion sites featuring her clothing line Franziska Fox with co owner Briana Andalore, she has made Page 6 multiple times, and self published her acclaimed photo book Symptomatic of a Relationship Gone Sour: Heartburn/Nausea, which chronicles three relationships that have had a significant impact on Fox’s life; both of which have became instant cult classics amongst the zine world and collectors. With all this going on, Julia packed up her bags and left New York City to go to Louisiana for the last six months where she has been playing outlaw in the blue bayous with Salem's John Holland and Jack Donoghue, only to return with a new solo photography show curated by Richie Shazam and a new book titled PTSD, which will open and release May 1st at Magic Gallery in Manhattan. Below, I got a chance to ask Fox about the dangerousness of her work, drug use, gun play and PTSD.
Autre: Let’s first start out with what made you leave NYC?
Julia Fox: I wanted to be scared. I forgot what that felt like. I hadn’t been lost in so long. I hadn’t tried anything new.
Autre: It seems like you’ve lived many lives and you’ve explored a lot of these lives through your photography, why do you think the camera has been such an important tool for documentation?
Fox: It definitely has. A camera tells the truth. It's such an honest tool and so very humbling.
Autre: You explore sex, prostitution and drug use, why do you think these things are so fetishized in culture?
Fox: Because people are attracted to things that are forbidden.
Autre: Sexual images these days are being repressed and exploited on social media daily and porn is becoming more violent each year and considered the norm. Your work tends to showcase both worlds. What effect do you think this is having on young adults learning and exploring sexuality?
Fox: A woman is taught to be silent and to sweep things under the rug when things get messy. When she does speak up she is labeled a "drama queen" or a "crazy bitch.” I think there comes an immense sense of power in expressing the truth about violence in love and during sex….exposing ones vulnerabilities and creating a dialogue surrounding different sexual and emotional experiences….women have urges. Women have fetishes. Women don't always have to be the sweet innocent ones who only have sex when they're in love. Women can exploit men as well as the other way around. In my new book I explore my sexuality with a few prostitutes, male and female, gay and straight.
Autre: What is it about you that allows people to feel comfortable having their most intimate and dark moments documented in your photography?
Fox: I'm an active player in the game so when I'm taking pictures, the camera is being passed around and I just want people to have fun. I also know when not to take pictures. Some things shouldn't be documented, they're too special or sensitive. It’s gonna sound corny but it's more about the memories than it is about the pictures. The book [PTSD] is more for me, Jack, John and Harmony. So we can look back at it 20 years from now. It's just a scrapbook, really.
Autre: Most photographers stay behind the lens, which gives them a safety net, especially when it comes to being judged, they can conclude that they are “simply documenting”. You on the other hand, are participating within your photos; may it be sex, drug use, or anything else for that matter. What are you trying to convey or is it simply “this is take it or leave it”?
Fox: My main concern isn't how I'm being perceived. My main concern is being transparent. I'm a huge part of my own creative process. Most of it couldn’t have happened if I wasn't actively participating and I wouldn’t be telling the whole truth if I was “simply documenting”. I would feel like a fraud and coward if I hid from the viewer and I never ever lie.
Autre: You have stated recently that you do not want to be grouped into the “feminist” art sub-culture that is trending these days, or for any group for that matter. Can you explain the importance of creating your own lane?
Fox: I want my work speak for itself. I don’t want to label myself as anything; I feel like, in doing so, I would be limiting the impact that my work might have regarding other issues. I would rather leave it open to interpretation. Some may find what I do empowering, others have told me its demeaning. I’m not sure and I don’t have a right answer.
Autre: Your previous book Symptomatic of a Relationship Gone Sour: Heartburn/Nausea was really successful, what was it about that book that really hit home with people?
Fox: In today's culture, dysfunctional/abusive relationships are so frequent (with friends and lovers), that people minimize the significance of these major traumas. Truth is, it's agonizing and a lot of times the people going through it feel alone and helpless. Sometimes you begin to question if you will ever be the same again. Anyone that picks up that book isn't alone anymore. I ripped my guts out on that book so that they wouldn't be.
Autre: It seems like you were always drawn to the darker side of culture, what about this dark side is so tempting and was it a panacea for your own psychic torment?
Fox: I'm just drawn to what I know. I find comfort in chaos and I feel at ease around drug addicts. I'm not sure why this is. I tend to really adore people who are suffering. They are so beautifully broken and poetic. I think I just like to find beauty in unsuspecting places. That's how I survive, by taking something awful and turning it into something spectacular.
Autre: You post a lot of pictures of you and your gun, do you use your gun for protection?
Fox: I like to say that my gun is my dick. In that it's so phallic in both its appearance and its significance. When I had it on me, I felt the same security that a man must feel. As women when we are born we are given this diamond and then taught to defend and protect it for the rest of our lives. When I have the gun, all that goes out the window. I'll just kill anyone that comes for it. In Louisiana it's customary to have a gun. Most people have one on them or in their car at all times. I didn't really have a choice. I'm not bringing a knife to a gunfight [laughs].
Autre: Tell us about PTSD and what you want people to walk away with after viewing your show?
Fox: I would love if I could inspire at least one person... Maybe inspire them to speak up. I would love if I could inspire someone to take something awful that they always hide and expose it under a beautiful light Or maybe just inspire someone to pick up a camera. Or inspire someone to travel with no real destination. Inspire someone to become friends with someone they wouldn't normally. I just want to inspire someone to try something new, really.
Autre: How did you meet Richie Shazam and what was the curation process like for your new show?
Fox: I met Richie in high school. We met at a party. I was in a fight with this guy and he threw an ashtray at me and I lost it. Richie always recalls that moment as the moment he realized he wanted to be my friend. Richie is so professional and the most thorough. He never disappoints and has never half ass'd anything. When he told me he wanted to do this with me, I didn't think twice. I think anyone would be dumb to pass up anything with him.
Autre: What’s your favorite saying in Italian?
Fox: It's not really a saying but this one phrase pops up in my head all the time: "Che ne sará di noi?" Which means "what will become of us?" I ask myself this referencing my generation and the young people. We are so fucked!
Julia Fox's show PTSD opens May 1st 6pm to 9pm, at Magic Gallery, 175 Canal Street, 5th floor May 1st. Text, interview and photographs by Mike Krim. Follow Autre on Instagram: @AUTREMAGAZINE