“So these photos are about sex,” she gestures to her dual photographs, one of a woman in the act of sex, her back tattooed with large clef notes, and one in the aftermath, lying on the other side of the bed, curled away from her partner.
“It’s about the expectation before you have it. So the first picture is out of focus, it’s a burst of color and then the second photo…” she thinks for a moment.
“You know those memes? Where the girlfriend is needy and doesn’t want the boyfriend to leave? Well, I always want the person to leave.”
The room erupts. Someone yells “I love your honesty!” and the laughter continues.
The woman in the photographs is Fox. She is the first to admit how comfortable she is naked, particularly in front of a camera. Circa December 2015, Fox was approached about posing for Playboy’s "last" nude issue. One of the photos from the shoot, that occasionally makes an appearance on Playboy’s Instagram account, extenuates Fox’s dark hair offset by her bright blue eyes. None of her tattoos are visible nor does she resemble the woman self-documented on her Instagram account which has been deleted by censoring trolls, four times.
Fox didn’t always like to be photographed. She was raised in Yorkville in the 90’s, a neighborhood on the Upper East Side that has since been gentrified. The iconic film, “Kids” portrays growing up Yorkville during that decade.
“When I was growing up it was a shit hole, no man’s land,” Fox reflects. “Everyone was bad, all the kids were bad, I guess I was bad too. One thing I used to do is get drugs from the projects and then sell it at a much higher price to the rich kids. I hated being photographed because I didn't think I was pretty nor did I care about fashion.”
By the time she was in high school, Fox no longer lived in Yorkville, but with her best friend, Briana and Briana’s mother, on the Lower East Side. Here, the opportunities were endless. At 18, Fox became a dominatrix to support herself. She briefly pursued a college degree before dropping out to start a fashion line with Briana called Franziska Fox. In her prime, Fox was introduced to a Playboy photographer who thought she would be perfect for what would become a heritage issue.
“I wanted to get in there because it’s an instant classic. We even did the shoot at my house because they wanted to make it more personal. The piece referred to me as ‘model, fashion designer, powerhouse.’ I was like, really?!”
But in May 2016, riding out her December Playboy fame, Fox was publically, physically assaulted by her ex-boyfriend. In response, she packed up and left Manhattan.
For six months, Fox orbited rural Louisiana. She was drawn to New Orleans’ Ninth Ward, where she hung out in trap houses similar to those she frequented growing up in Yorkville. She turned the camera away from herself during those months and instead, took explicit photographs which inspired her first art show, “PTSD” about the harsh realities of the Deep South.
Since that experience, Fox has identified with and practiced art as a photographer. Her recent solo show, “RIP Julia Fox”, was inspired by her near death experience at seventeen when she overdosed. Friends and strangers flocked to the gallery to celebrate the life and death of Fox who stood by, in bright purple lipstick.
Matt Sukkar, has been photographing Julia for a long time.
“I met Julia several years ago. A friend of mine pulled up to my house in Julia’s red Mercedes Benz convertible. She drove like a maniac. I didn’t see her again for a year until she came to a party I was throwing in LA. I took a photograph of her and our artistic relationship was born. We took a couple road trips after that to Tijuana and through the South, and I’d be able to shoot her with anyone we found because she can become fast friends with anyone. I think this ability to connect with people is because she has a lot of emotion in her. She is unapologetic about her life experience and I think that naturally allows for great portrait photography.”
In the photographs Fox contributed to the “SECRET GARDEN” show, you can’t see her eyes. During sex, she is turned away from the camera and post, her eyes are closed in restful repose or maybe, as an act of self-protection.
It is unclear if Fox sees her body as precious and sacred or rather as a precious vessel. It has served her as a dominatrix, commanded the pages of Playboy, garnered attention on Instagram, and been the focal point of her most recent art. She hates censorship and reveals her way of combatting it is by being more provocative.
At “RIP Julia Fox”, a few small collages hung behind the table at the gallery’s entrance. One, “Death As A Fetish” is comprised of women’s portraits, surrounding an image of a naked and dismembered woman’s body, that were all taken by a serial murderer-rapist who posed as a photographer to lure victims to their death. The portraits, ironically, serve as the “last photo taken of the victim alive”.
It is possible Fox sees herself in these women, even if it means breathing a sigh of relief for the amount of times she has gotten in front of a camera and come back stronger.