Julian Walter Photography Blog


Burning Man 2016

September 12th, 2016

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Always beautiful faces, always incredible new experiences. This year was yet again nothing short of amazing. My good friend Brian called it “The Year of the Skies” as we had many clouds which lit up so colorful for sunrises and sunsets. As cliché as it is to say, the spirit of Burning Man can not be captured in images and words. Some new visitors I brought had seen many photos before and knew what to expect visually, but the nurturing soul of the population is far more tangible in person than can be imagined when viewing photos. All that being said, here is once more my attempt to bring this other home into the real world.

D’Agostino-Elliot Wedding

June 13th, 2016

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Streets of Santa Margherita

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Holi Festival NYC

April 25th, 2016

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Traditionally a Hindu festival in India and Nepal around the end of winter to celebrate the coming of spring, strong feelings of sharing, love, and happiness are present in everyone. This has been adapted all over the world, and in this case, right here in Brooklyn, New York. Some portraits of my friends covered in the colored powders.

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Holi Festival Brooklyn NYC - Julian Walter Photography

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Holi Festival Brooklyn NYC - Julian Walter Photography

Holi Festival Brooklyn NYC - Julian Walter Photography

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Namibia | Himba Portraits

April 10th, 2016

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Since I’d wanted to come to Namibia for a while, I’d seen images and read about the Himba people located in the north of the country. I’ve always found their aesthetic to be quite beautiful, with ornate decorations and the red skin tint for the women. It is a society that has for some villages adapted itself to modern luxuries, such as supermarkets and health care. Some villages remain fairly remote and have much less contact with the rest of civilization.

An aspect I always liked reading about is how the women are praised highly in their communities, as they are the ones who keep mankind alive. Of course, men and women are necessary, but it is recognized that the women carries many more burdens than the men in creating a child.

This was an interesting learning experience as I already had a good idea of how I wanted to photograph them. I normally prefer environmental portraits, but I’ve already seen it done (amazingly well, Joey Lawrence and Jimmy Nelson come to mind) and wanted to try something a bit different. I met someone in Opuwo who speaks their language and would take me to their villages. The first one we went to was thirty minutes outside of Opuwo and I could tell from their lack of enthusiasm they were very used to having westerners come and take pictures. It was very disappointing and I had to ask if there are any other villages that are further away. We then went to Epupa Falls on the border to Angola, 200km away from the town and much more remote, but even there, I could see that foreigners regularly came to photograph the people, and it didn’t feel very special to me either.

Finally I had to push my guy and asked if there are any villages where no westerners visit. He said he knew an area. So we loaded up his 1975 Land Rover and hauled for hours across rugged terrain to get to a village where apparently only about one white person goes per year. I felt a much much better connection in this last village as the people were interested in me as well, rather than just having a photo taken because they know they need to. I obviously couldn’t speak their language but I felt like it was finally a very good exchange between my subjects and me. Even at night as I was going to go to sleep, I heard some of the young girls singing and clapping their hands under the full moon, I went and found them having their own dance party, which gathered another thirty or so people and we all stayed up late having fun in the cool night.

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Julian Walter Photography - Namibia Himba

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Julian Walter Photography - Namibia Himba

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Namibia | Namib Desert

April 10th, 2016

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The Namib Desert is main reason why I wanted to come to Namibia. I first saw it shot in a scene in the movie The Fall, and upon looking up the location, this became my top place in the world to visit. A large expanse of sand dunes sweeps from the ocean to sixty miles inland in an area called Sossusvlei. The sand turns a rust red color from iron content in oxidation, showing which dunes are the oldest. Not to be mistakenly named for the gravely Skeleton Coast further north, this is apparently the only place in the world where you can witness sand dunes reaching all the way into the ocean. See for yourselves:

Dead Vlei

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Julian Walter Photography - Namibia Namib Desert

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Julian Walter Photography - Namibia Namib Desert

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Namibia | Townships

April 5th, 2016

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I had only heard of townships before I came to this part of the world, and was very interested to learn and see firsthand what they were about. Between 1960 and 1983 when apartheid was at its strongest, they were formed in order to keep non-whites living near the city center but still separate. During this time, 3.5 million people were displaced and forced to live in these communities. Now to this day they remain the poorer neighborhoods and crime is a big problem. I was lucky to make a friend who lived out in this area (thanks to the intro to Gideon by Erik Hoffman) who showed us around and introduced us to lots of people. His name is Gideon with the purple polo shirt, and he is hustling hard to become a graphic designer. The Katutura neighborhood was very lively and I left feeling like I was finally really in Africa.

I later visited Swakopmund, a small clean German town on the coast that looked like a more upscale Santa Cruz (California). The town center was quite boring and didn’t have much flavor, so I found my way to the townships of Mondesa and DRC to explore some more. It gave me the same feeling, vibrant people all happy for a chat and hangout. DRC stands for Democratic Resettlement Community, formed in 2001 meant to be temporary living for residents awaiting government subsidized housing, many people live there permanently in shacks built from reclaimed materials from landfill. As I’ve often seen in these types of communities, despite the struggle and difficulties the people face, they find a way to maintain a strong level of happiness and positivity among themselves.

Katutura | Windhoek

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Julian Walter Photography - Namibia Townships Katutura Windhoek

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Julian Walter Photography - Namibia Townships Katutura Windhoek

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Morocco

February 28th, 2016

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During my three weeks in Morocco I didn’t really get off the beaten path, but this place has a lot of beauty to offer anywhere you look. I spent a few days in Marrakesh, some time surfing in the south, a good week in Essaouira (which I loved), then a quick drive into the desert. I would really like to get a car next time and explore around little villages to get a better idea of how people live outside of the cities.

This was my first time to a Muslim country, and lots of little differences were quickly made apparent. The most obvious were probably the regular calls to prayer, and the difficulty in finding alcohol. But the overall mindset and economic flow was really interesting. The king Mohammed VI was very smart during the Arab Spring of 2011 and spoke out to the people, having them vote on a new prime minister. There was never an uprising and the population still feel they have control of the social climate. So despite seeing the occasional homeless beggar, everybody seemed decently well taken care of. They explained to me how 70% of work is done under the table, whether someone is getting paid secretly, or a barter agreement is made.

“If my shoes break and I don’t have any money, I go to my friend’s shop right here and he gives me shoes, knowing that I pay him back soon. It’s no problem.”

They all take care of one another and offer food and shelter to those in need.

People seemed generally happy with living in Morocco. These photos almost exclusively focus on the traditional medina (market) areas, and those who wear the older style garments. Outside the walls, however, was always a fully functioning newer city with many areas looking as modern as Las Vegas or Palm Springs. I could see living well in this country.

The coast: Taghazout and Essaouira

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Julian Walter Photography - Morocco

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Julian Walter Photography - Morocco

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Refugee Crisis | Lesvos, Greece

February 13th, 2016

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Refugee: a person who has been forced to leave their country in order to escape war, persecution, or natural disaster.

While reading about the ongoing migration crisis into Europe, I found out how much of the passage funnels through this one little island off the Turkish coast called Lesvos. People from all over, mostly the Middle East, are trying to make their way legally into Europe. Lesvos has only a four mile distance across the water to the Asian side of Turkey, thus making it a very good way to bypass the typical difficult borders on land. In this case they trade one obstacle for another, as a small percentage of these boats end up sinking, drowning many of the passengers. So upon gaining interest in the crisis and seeing the ease of logistics for me go and connect with the situation, I hopped over to Lesvos for a week.

On the island, hundreds of volunteers from all over the western world come together for different amount of times in many groups to aid in the arrival, registration, and departure process of these refugees. Medical teams and lifeguards on the beaches aid in safe arrival, and camps on the island keep the refugees as comfortable as possible while they wait sometimes days for their registration. One organization that stood out was Better Days for Moria, somewhat of an overflow to the UNHCR camp next to the town of Moria, to ensure the comfort of the refugees, especially during the winter months. They arrived in November when hundreds of refugees had to sleep cold and wet on the muddy hillsides. Now a full blown camp has been made with free food, large tents, dry clothes, translators, and overall friendly faces for these people who are in particularly vulnerable states. I highly recommend for anybody to pay a visit and join in to help out with these groups, it’s very easy with a couple quick searches online, and I guarantee it will be an amazing experience that benefits everyone.

I will admit that one of my main goals in this visit was for my own benefit. The news stories tell us about “thousands of refugees daily” or “fifty die from boat sinking”, which are all shocking to see the scope of the problem, but I found the numbers to be so impersonal and didn’t relate the human element to it. So I thought to make a point to go and try to have some conversations and connect with refugees who are making this journey, just so that I could directly feel empathy and better understand the experience. Of course, with my photos if I can show some portraits and make that connection to a few of my viewers as well, then my other main goal would be fulfilled. I found it necessary to get consent 100% of the time before shooting a portrait, as your subject might be in danger from their own government and any publicity could be detrimental to them or their connections back home.

South coast boat rescue

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Julian Walter Photography - Lesvos Greece

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Julian Walter Photography - Lesvos Greece

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Cuba | Outskirts

January 12th, 2016

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I didn’t spend much time outside of Havana, but the few days I did were significant in order to remove myself from the chaos of the city. One afternoon in a quiet fishing village to the east, a visit to a local beach, and two days in Viñales were enough to give me a small taste of what awaits me on my next visit to this country. Viñales is a town that thrives on tourism and tobacco farming set in a beautiful valley on the western side of Cuba. The mountains around reminded me of Vietnam, and the locals were all very friendly and happy for a quick chat and photo.

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Julian Walter Photography - Cuba

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Julian Walter Photography - Cuba

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Cuba | Central Havana

January 4th, 2016

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Setting foot on the ground in Cuba is like traveling back in time. It is well-known that this country was built up fast after the revolution in 1959, and not much has happened since. My favorite thing to do when visiting foreign countries is to talk with locals. Only then can you get the truest views on circumstances rather than what you read in the news.

I learned how poor most Cubans really are on a global scale, with government jobs paying an average of $15-30 per month. That being said, health care and education are completely free, with housing and food being incredibly inexpensive. As a result, nobody seemed to be struggling to survive. Everybody I met was very intelligent, I would guess a higher average than in America. There were only a few homeless people I saw, and nobody had untreated illnesses. On the downside however, because of such low pay wages, many turned to other jobs in exchange for slightly higher salaries. Two guys working the desk in my hostel had computer science degrees, a woman working in a restaurant quit her medical studies because waiting tables for tourists would pay better than being a doctor. Everybody could get by, but thriving seemed impossible. It’s as if they were trapped in a level of comfortable poverty.

My aim is always to capture authenticity, which is arguable in many cases of my results. As you see image after image of the classic American cars, you have to realize that sometimes I had to wait a few minutes for these to happen; or the general type of person I was drawn to photographing; or that I mainly focused on one main neighborhood in Havana. All that being said, I don’t think anybody who has been there would say this isn’t an accurate depiction of what you could encounter exploring the area.

I can’t remember the first time I felt drawn to this city, but it’s a very common feeling for photographers. The purpose of my trip was to go and live in this part of town, make a few friends, and get a local’s experience for a couple weeks. Walking around this area and talking to people, you get a sense of a city that hasn’t changed much in 50 years. It has all the characteristics of a third world country’s capital: dilapidated structures, dirty streets, general chaotic order of living, but it’s without the sense of danger and aggravation. It’s conflicting to talk about how amazing this place is for photography, because our beauty is their reality. A dilapidated apartment building might make for perfect backdrops, but the lack of order doesn’t make for ideal living conditions.

I must specify this is not Old Havana (Habana Viejo), as it looked heavily catered towards tourism and didn’t seem very real. Nice restaurants and bars lined the Obispo walkway, and side streets were filled with shops of souvenirs and swarms of cameras clicking away. The cops even hassle locals for walking or talking with tourists; some friends I had made told me they’d walk twenty yards behind me when we passed through here because it just wasn’t worth it otherwise.

Despite the frustration with the economic situation, people generally carry a very positive attitude and like to maintain a good energy among themselves. I was consistently greeted with warmth and smiles as I’d talk to strangers out and about or in their homes. I am glad I was able to capture this experience and share it in my photos.

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Julian Walter Photography - Havana Cuba

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Julian Walter Photography - Havana Cuba

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