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Meet Julie Weber of Julie Weber Studio in North Center

Today we’d like to introduce you to Julie Weber.

Julie, let’s start with your story. We’d love to hear how you got started and how the journey has been so far.
I was interested in photography as an art form from an early age but it took some time to fully commit to it as a career. Looking back, I can see two main influences that shaped where I am today.

First, as a child of the ‘80s, I was born into the tail end of analog photography as the cultural norm and really felt the growing pains of the transition to digital. My experience growing up was 110 and 35mm film trips to Kmart to drop off film for development and waiting a week to pick-up prints. I started taking darkroom classes in high school and got a job as a photo tech at a convenience store as soon as I turned 16. Working in the photo lab, I witnessed firsthand the decline in film processing and the advent of digital kiosks. These experiences have led me to prefer working with outmoded or discarded photographic materials (like secondhand prints, expired film, and photo paper or printer waste). I’ve never been one for new and shiny things; I prefer repurposing and unconventional potentials. Given the value I place on it, the material becomes an integral part of my subject matter.

Second, I’ve always been drawn to the oppositional relationship between art and science, and I believe photography embodies that tension extremely well. It is a science of light and image formation with roots in physics and chemistry, as much as it is an art, a form of self-expression through visual depiction. I went to a liberal arts school for my undergrad studies, which really fueled the art versus science dialogue. While I continued exploring photography as a minor concentration, my primary focus was on research methods within psychology. This led to a formative 3-year tenure as a researcher in cognitive testing within drug development. My background in research certainly influences my approach to photography, which is very methodical and based on experimentation and illustrating process.

We’re always bombarded by how great it is to pursue your passion, etc. – but we’ve spoken with enough people to know that it’s not always easy. Overall, would you say things have been easy for you?
At the time, my decision to change careers from cognitive research to photography was surrounded by unease and uncertainty, especially as it meant forfeiting financial stability. What I realized from that transition and what I continue to encounter as a challenge, is that there is no clear-cut, formulaic path of milestone advancements to a career as an artist. You really have to see yourself as an entrepreneur, set your own goals and define what success means to you. You have to be self-motivated and disciplined because no one else is holding you accountable for putting in hours at the studio, attending events, or applying for exhibitions and other opportunities.

So let’s switch gears a bit and go into the Julie Weber Studio story. Tell us more about the business.
I’ve had a studio in the North Center neighborhood for 5 years now. About half my time in the studio is spent on making and evaluating work. The other half, which I think is often overlooked when discussing the reality of being an artist, is spent on “running the business” – which includes stuff like maintaining records of my work and sales, applying for opportunities, reaching out to people, updating my website/social media, etc. I also work as an adjunct professor in photography teaching 2 to 3 days a week. Teaching is a taxing yet rewarding mixture that also affords me access to a professional darkroom rather than a DIY one at my studio.

Making work comes first and foremost but equally important is sharing that work. I exhibit regularly and currently have work in a group exhibition called LIGHT + METAL at photo-eye Gallery in Santa Fe, NM. In the New Year, I’m looking forward to a solo show in the fall as well as exhibiting my work in FOTOFILMIC18’s traveling show to San Francisco, Seoul, and Vancouver. Last year three large projects came to fruition: a solo exhibit at Bert Green Fine Art, a hotel commission with Anderson/Miller for the Marriott Marquis at McCormick Place, and publishing my first photo book, REMNANTS, with Skylark Editions. I am very fortunate for these opportunities as I get to work with and learn from great people who propel me forward.

Has luck played a meaningful role in your life and business?
I’m a believer that you make your own luck. Particularly in art, you have to put yourself out there by showing up at events, meeting new people, and supporting other artists. And hopefully in doing so, you generate good karma and opportunities and collaborations will come.

Contact Info:

Image Credit:
Portrait of Julie in the studio: Chester Alamo-Costello, Chicago Portraits Project

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