Julien Duval, a Zagreb based photographer specializing in travel, interior design and music photography is today considered one of the best photographers in Croatia, especially when it comes to tourism.
He first came to Croatia in 2010 and it was love at first sight. We sat down with Julien to chat about his new plans,big projects ahead but also about the potential of our region from the photographers point of view.
How and when did you know photography was “the one” for you?
Photography has always fascinated me. In college I studied geography and almost completed a PhD. One day I decided to quit my job at University, in order to dedicate myself to another project. I was planning to create a travel guide and this is how I started to take pictures regularly. It eventually became a huge passion and it is now my profession.
How and did you choose Croatia as your current home or did Croatia choose you?
During my studies I had the chance to experience one year as Erasmus student in Finland. So after college I was looking for another chance to live abroad for some time. I applied to Eurodyssee, a program for working in another European country. Few months later I arrived to Croatia for the first time. I immediately fell in love with the country and with its lifestyle. After that I never really left Croatia and I am now based in Zagreb.
What are some of the projects you are currently working on?
This fall I am starting a very big project in cooperation with the Croatian National Tourist Board based on photographing the UNESCO patrimony of the country.
During one year, we will be covering the world heritage sites of Croatia like Plitvice, Dubrovnik or Split; as well as the cultural heritage: traditional dances, handcraft… This is a very exciting project and I am very proud that I am able to contribute to the promotion of Croatia.
We have to ask: What are your impressions of Plitvice and Lika-Senj County?
Plitvice and Dubrovnik are probably the most iconic and most popular places in Croatia. Visiting Plitvice was on my bucket list for a long time. I visited it for the first time 8 years ago during a sunny winter day when the park was covered by 40cm of fresh snow. It was really incredible.
Since then, I have visited it about 30 times and every time is special, depending on the season or the weather forecast. Light is always different.
The Lika region is also full of nature and is a wonderful playground for landscape and wildlife photographers.
What are your thoughts on the potential of Lika-Senj County when it comes to photography and tourism?
I think this region is one of the wildest in Croatia. Nature has a really important role in the life and in the economy of the region. This could be a very good identity to work on for tourism, for the ones searching for authenticity and deep nature.
Besides Plitvice, the Lika Senj county has a lot to offer. The North Velebit National park is also very impressive. From the top of the mountain, you can admire the seaside and all the islands. The hike offers many breathtaking views. I also really enjoyed visiting Rastoke, Gacka and the bear sanctuary in Kuterovo. Those are quite photogenic spots.
Since you were a geography student, do you prefer taking pictures of places and nature or people? Or maybe both in the same picture?
I mostly work as a landscape and music photographer. So when I am not attending some music festival, I usually have some cooperation with local tourist boards in Croatia. I spend my time between being surrounded by thousands of people and alone in the wild. I like these two sides of my work, it gives me a good balance.
I also like to include people in my landscape photos. I want to show the connection between humans and nature.
What is the best photo you´ve ever taken?
My favourite photo was taken 7 years ago in New York City. This city is a perfect playground for shooting street photography. So during a very hot summer day, I saw two kids playing with a fire hydrant in Harlem streets. I came as close as possible in order to capture all the emotions on their faces.
This photo seems timeless to me and represents the image I have of NYC.
In your opinion, is photography more of a vocation or a profession these days?
Photography is nowadays everywhere with social media and good images are extremely important to promote any type of business. Brands understand that well. For that reason, photography has become a very competitive field that requires you to have talent, dedication, marketing skills and discipline.
But though it is not easy, I think the most important is to be driven by the passion and the love towards photography. Doing what you like will always help you to overcome any type of crisis.
Does it feel strange when you are the one being photographed and not the other way around?
Yes indeed, I am not used to that. My comfort zone is behind the camera!
What are some of the weirdest habits Croatians have?
Losing against France all the time?? Just joking!
Do you get homesick often and how do you and your family beat the distance?
No, not really, I am rarely homesick. I really enjoy my life in Croatia and I feel like I´m home here. However, I sometimes miss eating some French specialities!
Can you share some of your photography and non-photography dreams for the future with us?
The dream I have since I´ve started with photography is to work for National Geographic. I think it would be a great achievement regarding my background as a geographer. When I was younger I used to receive this magazine each month, so having my work published in it would be a huge pride.
I think it is important to have some goals and dreams in order to keep your passion alive and to improve your quality through the years.
PHOTO: Julien Duval