Photographer Giulia McGauran. Image by, unsurprisingly, Giulia McGauran.

Meet Giulia Giannini McGauran, VCA Art graduate and photographer

VCA alumna Giulia McGauran wanted to be a nurse, studied drawing, and works now as a photographer. Here she tells us about her artistic inspirations, favourite shoots from the past year, and what she’d do with a million dollars.

By Susanna Ling

Hi Giulia, how did you end up at the VCA?

I always thought I would be a nurse, but I was also interested in theatre. When I was in Year 12, my best friend Lucy decided that she wanted to go for an interview at VCA, so I thought I may as well give it a go too.

I got very lucky. I didn’t put much thought into it at all and managed to land on my feet in the most incredible university and course I could possibly imagine.

What led you to photography?

I actually did my Bachelor of Fine Arts in drawing. I just loved it. I drew all day and all night, I went to life drawing and got a job colouring in for an urban planning firm. At the beginning of second year, I noticed my hand was starting to cramp up. I worked through it, resting my hand on a hot teacup whenever it got really sore, but eventually it became painful all of the time. I was devastated. I tried drawing with my other hand, my feet, my mouth, on easels, on the floor, with those 3D pens, but nothing worked. I was in a bit of a mid-course crisis.

Luckily my teachers were incredibly supportive and encouraging of other media. I learned that I needed to think of ideas first and then find the most fitting medium to execute them.

I decided to go on exchange to Boston for a semester, to put myself in a different context to explore new things. I studied hip hop and beat making, performance art and philosophy. Being around new people and ideas helped to re-wire and open up my brain to a new way of creating art.

My lightbulb moment came when I was looking at paintings in the Museum of Fine Arts and realised that there were no under-bites in any of the portraits. I decided I wanted to explore jaws and tongues, and the best way to execute this was through photography.

I went back to VCA the next year with a project in mind and no skills to make it, so I would constantly knock on the photography tech’s door with questions (poor Cherie!), and she helped me with the key technical things. Dr Mark Dustin, the Head of Printmaking and Drawing, also had a great knowledge of photography so he was able to fill up my brain with all kinds of references and texts.

Colonial Taste x Alliance Française Exhibition, by Giulia McGauran.
Colonial Taste x Alliance Française Exhibition, by Giulia McGauran.

After photographing and exhibiting the tongue project, I started doing press shots for artists and bands and it was then that I really realised how photography incorporated not only the process of theatre and direction which I used to love, but the ability to collaborate and bring in lots of different inspirations from lots of people doing exciting things.

You have a very distinct, colourful style. What or who are your inspirations and style icons?

Funnily enough my first photography inspiration was Bill Henson. I loved the moods he managed to capture and became obsessed with the contrast of yellow and white light.

It wasn’t until Mark Dustin told me that I could actually portray a range of emotions in bright light and colour that my whole world opened up.

I had always loved colour and have worn vibrant matching outfits since I was a kid, and I love the way people respond to it. Adults seem to feel more fun and playful around colour.

You worked on a lot of shoots for the Faculty this year. Which were your favourites and why?

I feel very lucky to have been able to meet and photograph so many really engaged and interesting people this year for the Faculty. There honestly hasn’t been a shoot that I haven’t loved doing.

My favourite period of shooting, though, would have to be the two weeks where I shot 130 portraits in more than 70 different places around the University. I was on my feet the whole time, and people would come in with the most surprising things. I really enjoyed shooting PhD student Regan Lynch, who turned up in a latex outfit with a black animal skull mask – that was definitely unexpected.

Doctor of Philosophy (Theatre) candidate Regan Lynch. Photo by Giulia McGauran.
Doctor of Philosophy (Theatre) candidate Regan Lynch. Photo by Giulia McGauran.

I think my favourite individual shoot was the one for Interactive Composition at the Faculty. They all dressed up and got right into their mad scientist characters. They also carried the concept through to their final video and concept which was really wonderful to see.

Associate Professor Mark Pollard, Dr Anthony Lyons, Les Craythorn, and David Haberfeld with the Synthi 100. Photo by Giulia McGauran.
Associate Professor Mark Pollard, Dr Anthony Lyons, Les Craythorn, and David Haberfeld with the Synthi 100. Photo by Giulia McGauran.

What’s your secret to getting people comfortable in the studio?

Usually by the time the studio shoot comes around there have been a few weeks of careful planning and communication, so people are pretty ready and enthusiastic to get into it – but some Shantel, Enya and good chats never go astray.

What’s the most memorable/wackiest/most difficult/most personally fulfilling shoot you’ve ever done?

This is a really hard one because I really do love each shoot for different reasons, but a couple of my favourites from the past year would be:

Singer/songwriter Eilish Gilligan. Image by Giulia McGauran.
Singer/songwriter Eilish Gilligan. Image by Giulia McGauran.

I have been collaborating with singer/songwriter Eilish Gilligan (also a former VCA student) for about three years and she is just so phenomenal to work with every single time.

The Rubens. Photo by Giulia McGauran.
The Rubens. Photo by Giulia McGauran.

Covering The Rubens completely in gold was pretty magnificent and memorable.

Singer Nkechi Anele. Image by Giulia McGauran.
Singer Nkechi Anele. Image by Giulia McGauran.

This shot with singer and Triple J host Nkechi Anele (also a fellow VCA grad) is possibly my favourite shot from this year.

Melbourne band Approachable Members of Your Local Community. Photo by Giulia McGauran.
Melbourne band Approachable Members of Your Local Community. Photo by Giulia McGauran.

And finally, Approachable Members of Your Local Community – because squeezing them all into that car was definitely very memorable.

 What’s one thing nobody ever asks you, that you wish they would … and what’s the answer?

“Oh Hi Giulia. I have a spare million dollars, what shoot would you like to do?”

“Oh, thanks for asking. I would like to photograph Mr Bean and Cathy Freeman (my heroes) having lunch in a spaceship.”


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