Through the lens of photographer Julia Champeau

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When you’re as discreet and enigmatic as photographer Julia Champeau, it’s difficult to talk about yourself and define your style. This artist behind numerous American Vintage campaigns agreed to an interview to tell us about her work and her passions.

How did you decide to become a photographer?

I’m from Southern France. When I was younger, I wanted to be a painter. Which is completely different from what I am now – or maybe it isn’t… It was only later that I tried my hand at photography, when I attended ENSP, École Nationale Supérieure de la Photographie d’Arles. I graduated in 2005 and started as an assistant for fashion and beauty photographers. This happened completely by chance, because I was initially trained in art photography. I wanted to show my work, have it exhibited. In fact, I still dream of doing exactly this. But things turned out differently and I found a way to combine my personal expression with professional commissions in the fashion world.

American Vintage campaigns never look frozen. They celebrate movement and take us on a journey. How do you create this spontaneous ambience?

Discover the American Vintage Spring/Summer 2020 campaign shot by Julia Champeau

It’s really hard for me to step back and define my work. On the other hand, I can clearly describe what I’m looking for: a form of precision, something sophisticated and very understated at the same time. For three seasons now, American Vintage has decided to only shoot the brand’s DNA pieces. For me, there’s nothing more timeless than capturing images in an urban setting that everyone can identify with. This allows everyone to read their own story in them. I like when an atmosphere is able to emerge from an image.

What is your relationship with fashion?

I’m fascinated by extraordinary people, such as Jane Birkin and Alexander McQueen. However, today, I find fashion too predictable, too smooth. It’s a little boring. I’m at the opposite end of romanticism: I like rock. For example, my ideal outfit would be a simple but really well-cut black suit. And nothing else.

AMV Journal is a space dedicated to encounters, discovery and travel. Every week, explore the musts, portraits and inspirations of American Vintage and its creation studio.