The Brand Identity: How did you come together to form the studio?
Ghazaal Vojdani: We met during our BA at Central Saint Martins in London, where we both studied Graphic Design. Afterwards, we parted ways to further explore our independent practices as well as teaching, in New York and Paris. Julia received her MA in Art Direction and Photography from Écal in Lausanne, CH (2014) and I received my MFA in Graphic Design from Yale University School of Art in New Haven, CT, USA (2013). The initial idea of starting Europium came out of a conversation in London with the French artist Marguerite Humeau who is a mutual friend of ours. We have both collaborated with Marguerite separately, and have had many conversations about our practices, therefore we all know each other’s work very well. Ever since Central Saint Martins, Julia and I have always been following each other’s work from afar. It was definitely a very spontaneous move which suddenly made a lot of sense to us both.
TBI: What does the name Europium mean to you? Did the name come naturally or was it the result of a process?
GV: We are both very much interested in the relation between photography and graphic design, and how the two impact one another as well as blending with each other. The studio name came out of the concept of two things meeting, a contact point or confluence, and a reaction as a result of this contact. We are both fascinated by minerals, earth elements, and material in general. So I started researching R.E.E (rare earth elements) and R.E.M (rare earth metals) when I was travelling in the mountains of Hierve el Agua in Oaxaca, Mexico, and came across Europium, the most reactive rare-earth element with the symbol Eu, found in France (where we are based) and consecutively named after the continent of Europe (where we initially met). Europium readily oxidises in air and water and caused a revolution in the colour TV industry resulting in a much brighter image. The colour red on TV screens used to be very weak, therefore other colours had to be muted to maintain colour balance. Europium has continued to be in use in CRT TV screens for the display of images. Given our strong interest in image and our back story, we landed on Europium.
“Julia and I have always been following each other’s work from afar.”
TBI: What learnings from your solo practices are you taking with you into Europium?
GV: We both have quite a lot of experience in our individual practices, therefore as creatives, we are quite independent, and we believe that it’s important to continue to develop our own practices and international networks in parallel to Europium.
As a studio, it is quite important and unique that we have the ability to propose and create our own images vs. content that is given to us by a client. The fact that every part is coming from us, makes the project more concrete, and therefore a much truer collaboration overall.
Being complementary in terms of our skills and personalities is even apparent in our teaching practice. We teach Visual Direction and Image-Making to MA Fashion Design students at the Institut Français de la Mode in Paris and work with our students on producing printed publications and photoshoots of their final pieces during the two years of their studies. When someone brings an idea to the table we can both see it straight away. We operate quite instinctively and are generally in agreement with one another, for example when we are in the process of editing together after a photoshoot we both know which image is ‘the one’ so our dynamic works very well.
TBI: When approached by a prospective client, is part of the process determining if they’re the right fit for your solo practices, or together as Europium?
GV: This process happens quite naturally. Either, we are individually contacted through our own practices for a project and when it makes sense we work on it together as Europium, or we are contacted directly through Europium for a specific project.
“Teaching is generally a process and ongoing discourse.”
TBI: Does teaching have any impact on your commercial work and thinking?
GV: Teaching is generally a process and ongoing discourse that you are constantly learning from whilst trying to help others with their personal work. Since in Paris our students are in the Fashion Design sector, we are naturally learning and familiarising ourselves with a different field, materials, and process than our own. This impacts us professionally, of course, since Fashion is a field that we do actually work within our own practice. Julia also currently teaches Photography in two other Graphic Design programmes in France, so it’s really interesting to see how much our experience in visual direction and image can contribute to other fields as well as ours.
TBI: How did you find launching the studio in the midst of COVID-19?
GV: As for everyone else, this has not been an easy year, in our case especially when launching a new practice it means the process of everything is much slower. We are much less able to attend social events, meet new contacts, set up meetings, and it is even difficult to foresee a clear future for the studio. However, the situation has not held us back from producing and making. We spent confinement together and kept ourselves very busy working on some projects, documenting/editing our work, and designing and launching our website. We even produced some self-initiated projects, an aspect of our practice that is very important to us and that has been a real source of comfort and pro-activity. It’s a dynamic that we both need and luckily we are able to continue to research and produce in these uncertain times, hoping the future will hold easier days for everyone.
“We spent confinement together and kept ourselves very busy working on some projects.”
TBI: What do you enjoy about working with clients in the cultural sector?
GV: We both enjoy collaborating and discovering the work of other creatives and expanding our own knowledge and network within the sector, and of course the excitement of building narratives and the construction and visualisation of ideas through photography, image-making, editing, and art direction.
TBI: What appeals to you about Paris as the city to base your practice?
GV: Since a great part of our practice is based around the field of fashion, Paris is a great city to be in, however, we are not tied to a certain city as we aim and are interested in working internationally. We initially met in Europe and I left for the States for eight years and happened to settle here on my return. Of course, being in the heart of Europe allows us to easily work and travel in Europe.
“The dream client is one that respects and trusts your work.”
TBI: Do you have a dream client?
GV: We are both big fans of the work and art direction of Jil Sander, so yes we would love to work with the team and produce images for them one day. However, generally, the dream client is one that respects and trusts your work, time, and sensibilities and allows for a real conversation and collaboration to happen which will naturally lead to an ongoing relationship.