Elizabeth Johnson is a diverse and talented photographer whose fashion images and self portraits capture a certain bleakness of the human spirit, her commissioned portraits for Vice and Nokia capture the sitters individual playfulness. Personally, Elizabeth’s images whether fashion (Dennis Severs House, image below), self portrait or images representing the fleeting nature of empty summers convey an incredible sense of literary narrative. The girls populating the photographs appear to be whimsical creatures existing solely in the countryside, outside the trappings of modern life. The photographs allow the viewer to project themselves into the softly lit landscapes. Amelia’s Magazine asked Elizabeth about the influence of her inspirations regarding her the compositions of her photographs.
Where does your inspiration come from?
A lot of my inspiration comes from the human condition, trying to find a way to illustrate emotion/feelings. My favorite image is one of the two that I used in my degree exhibition, a self portrait, facing away from the camera, in a white dress. I currently have a 4 ft x 4ft copy of it in my flat
Why do you produce images?
I’m interested in people making images that are beautiful and art. Using stunning images that will long outlive the clothes that they are supposed to be selling. The imagery should transcend the commerce.
What is your relationship to clothes used in shoots?
I adore beautiful clothing, but have little to no interest in documenting trends. I am aware of them, being ‘current’ doesn’t interest me, as I feel that it means your work will date and become obsolete really quickly.
The film noir images appeared in The Times.
Do you discuss your creative process?
Sometimes I’ll try and talk to other people about what I’m inspired by, but I’ll either get shy or irritated if they don’t understand… So I turn to books etc.
My favorite photographers are Sarah Moon, Francesca Woodman, Ryan McGinley. I love Sarah Moon for her work as it is just so unique, with such a strong story running through her images. I go back time and time again to her work. Francesca Woodman for the tragedy surrounding her, which may sound a bit macabre, but she was beautiful and committed suicide at just 22, the ghostly almost angelic nature of her self portraits seem to show an awareness of the fragility of life. Ryan McGinley, his photographs make me think he just seems to enjoy life so much.
Who do you consider to be an important photographer for this generation?
I think Alec Soth is amazing, he manages to combines itinerant documentary work, while moonlighting as a fashion photographer. Plus he’s a member of Magnum.
Motivation outside of photography?
I’m inspired by so many different things… nature, I can’t stay in London more than five days without craving the countryside. I’m inspired by people, and their emotions, the way we interact, how we glorify the past. I get quite overwhelmed sometimes, taking pictures is a good way to shut feelings in a box and helps you move on.
What are your thoughts on the drive towards an ethically sustainable fashion industry
I feel that young designers such as Ada Zanditon creating ethical and sustainable fashion is an exciting development. For me, buying second hand/charity shop is the best thing you can do, as you are reusing what has already been produced….
Do you prefer natural or studio lighting?
I really don’t like using studios… I find them intimidating and a bit limiting for the work I want to produce. I use an olympus OM20 and always try to shoot in natural light…
How did your photographic style develop?
My photographic style probably comes from years of looking at other photographers and unsuccessfully trying to copy them. I think that I’ve not yet found a style that I’m truly comfortable and happy with to be honest.
How does literature or music inspire your photographs?
Literature inspires me so much, I’m like a poor mans author, as yet unable to cohere my thoughts into passages of prose. I often will start a shoot with a reference from a book or a poem.
Elizabeth’s portraits of the horse Milfy are luscious in their portrayal of the consideration the owner has for their steed. It is in this ability to capture a range of human emotions that Elizabeth’s photographs become timeless and not simply about fashion or art. Instead they become about the subject that so inspires much literature. The Human Condition.
- Street & Studio: An Urban History of Photography
- Exhibition: HIPSTAMATICS at the Orange Dot Gallery, Bloomsbury
- Elizabeth Lau: New S/S 2012 Season Preview Interview
- LFW 09 – Nasir Mazhar – The underbelly of London Fashion Week
- London Fashion Week Autumn Winter 2010 Review: Charles Anastase