Europe // 2015

On a whim I buy myself a one way ticket to Copenhagen and reserve a rental car for six weeks. I arrive to weather far colder than I'm prepared for so I buy two sweaters and an extra jacket and sleep off my jet lag for two days. I meet Morten and then Effy and then two guys named Bo, one of whom will have an unexpected impact on my life. I drive to Berlin and meet even more people and reunite with an old friend I haven't seen in 16 years and the idea of moving here is planted in my mind. I keep traveling and visiting old friends and making new ones. I go to Norway and Sweden and take an overnight ferry to Estonia. And then I drive all the way to Frankfurt to pick up my daughter Tully where she's taken her first transatlantic flight all by herself. Together we visit Germany, Switzerland, France, Spain, Belgium, and the Netherlands. We barbecue on the Rhein, eat Belgian waffles in Belgium, climb the Eiffel Tower, shop at flea markets, dance on rooftops, visit old friends and make new ones. The seed has been planted, watered, and when we return to Europe a month later it will be as legal residents, not tourists.

Shot on iPhone 6 or Fuji x100t

VOLUME ONE // A COLLABORATION WITH ARTIST CATHERINE HART

In March 2015, I had the pleasure of collaborating in the studio with my wonderful friend and amazingly talented artist, Catherine Hart. We gave ourselves five days in the studio to simply play and experiment with what might evolve out of the relationship between my photography and her paintings and drawings and this book was the result. Some ideas worked and some did not, but this process reawakened a sense of play and experimentation and sparked the inspiration to pursue collaborations with other artists as well. 

While photography is my career, it is only one facet of my creative life. Running a business, traveling all the time, and being a single mom had taken up so much time and energy the last several years that I had lost touch with my love for making for its own sake. In my art school days I experimented with many mediums including glassblowing, painting, sculpture, jewelry making, graphic design, video, and writing, and while photography and design emerged as the most practical skills with which to build a career, I still have a deep love for working with my hands. This project was a first step in returning to my creative roots and I look forward to sharing more of my personal work as more projects and collaborations come to fruition. 

We sat down at a cafe in Los Angeles to chat about our experience with this project:

Catherine Hart: Collaborating like this has been so fun and has sparked something I really appreciate inside me. One theme we always have when we collaborate on life is very much about how all things boil down to our relationships. Over the years it has become clear our lives are really just the people we have in it… the exchanges, experiences, and conversations we share and the stories we tell ourselves about it. So, in a sense, it’s exciting to see the relationship that our work can have with each other… all the different ways that our aesthetics can combine, the way your photography and my drawings can have a conversation with each other.

Julie Comfort: I love the idea of a visual “conversation.” We talk-a lot, in various mediums, so it does seem like a natural progression for us. That our work is on such opposite ends of the spectrum: black & white versus color, literal versus abstract, et cetera, makes it easy to create a dynamic juxtaposition, but it’s also interesting to explore that dichotomy in a process that reinforces how similar we are… we both love to work in a space together, we both process our lives through language and connection, we share the same humor, aesthetic, and interests, and we both laughed out loud through 50 Shades of Grey.

CH: Totally. And congratulations on using the words juxtaposition and dichotomy in the same paragraph. Art School would approve. #nailedit

But in all seriousness, this process also had an unexpected perk for me. I’ve been able to reconnect to just how process-based I really am and that I find joy in material exploration. The way the gouache, pens, pencil, and watercolors interacted with the photo paper was an entirely new creative experience for me. The paint performed differently and thus interacted with added layers differently, that a whole new understanding of the materials revealed itself. So for me, a lot of this project has been about remembering the art is in the making itself. Without time to explore and time for trial and error, successful work can never come to life.

JC: I totally agree with that and can’t believe how long it’s been for me to spend time making for its own sake & seeing what evolves out of it. I do a lot of that kind of experimentation digitally, but it’s been ages since I played with making in real life and really there is no excuse for it. Being in the studio with you these last few days has been such a fun and joyful time. Being free to be creative and social at the same time has just made me feel so… full. It’s really such a shame how much I have gotten away from the things that make me most happy; socializing with my favorite people, making art, traveling. I think I really sidelined the great for the false allure of merely good. So this process—and the whole trip—has been huge for me in that regard. But beyond that, I feel fully expressed to communicate those ideas that have been languishing inside for so long. I spend so much time thinking and not nearly enough doing. Fuck that.

CH: I totally get that. Our brains are creative imaginative places that love to problem solve. So we always have big ideas coming up in our minds. I believe that the process of getting those ideas to take shape in reality and out of our imaginations can be an unnecessarily daunting task. There is a lot of underlying fear operating. For one, we all know from experience there will be a gap between what we see in our minds and what we actually produce. This is one of the more frustrating aspects of the creative process and often a point where artists consider throwing in the towel. But you just have to muscle through and simply keep making. So I appreciate that we created a safe place for play with no pressure on the results. Thanks for that my friend.

JC: Ditto my friend!