NEW YORK, NY – I met Justin this year. I had been seeking a photographer for a very special story (soon to be unveiled) and I stumbled upon his work via Instagram. The aesthetic and treatment of his photos were exactly the style I was looking for. After reaching out to Justin and meeting for tea to discuss my vision, I found not just a photographer but a deeply layered creative. I was shocked to learn that not only was he still a student but he also picked up photography just a couple years ago. Despite the short amount years under his belt, the talented rookie moved from his hometown in Atlanta to New York City and has since founded his own company and gained quite the following. Within just a few months of knowing him, I’ve already had wonderful and memorable conversations with Justin. Beyond his natural talent, it was his eclectic taste, varied interests and unlikely past that really intrigued me.
ME: Who is Justin Johnson?
JUSTIN JOHNSON: This is never an easy question to answer. Well, if I had to try and sum it up, I would say: Justin is an ambitious young man simply on a journey to fulfill his purpose on this earth with the multitude of gifts the most high has blessed him with.
What or who is your current muse? Um, I really don’t have a steady muse at the moment. I find many women I shoot with to be a source and inspiration of my creations, but no one that is singularly my muse of choice to work with consistently. Haven’t found that deep of a connection with anyone yet.
Song on repeat? Oh this is definitely a tough one. I love music too much. My playlist consists of Bob Marley, Fela Kuti, Sade, Jazz Liberatorz, D’Angelo, Jill Scott, Tupac, or some type of Jazz…literally, everyday. As of the last few days, I’ve been listening to D’Angelo “Those dreaming eyes of mine” (J-Dilla Remix) back to back to back. (Laughs)
What’s for lunch? Mmm…varies, it will be between only fruits and vegetables –maybe a smoothie –or organic Atlantic salmon, brown rice, and a hefty salad since I just started eating salmon again. Somewhere in between there.
Define “Awesome.” “Awesome,” my definition, is something that someone has set out to achieve and they did it beyond their expectation. Also with the ability to inspire others and help the next man/woman. Corny right? I know. (Laughs)
What gets me most excited is…Helping/inspiring anyone that truly needs my energy, making money so I can navigate in this world freely as I please, and the thought and action of growing and building a name/brand for myself so I can leave something behind for my children and grandchildren to continue with.
Boldest thing you’ve ever done: I don’t know about this question. I’ve done a lot of bold shit in my life…still do. Some I’m not proud of. Not sure. Maybe somewhere between driving 10 lbs of herb from Cali to Atlanta one summer to climbing the Brooklyn Bridge and almost getting arrested. I’ve probably done worse when I was younger; talk to my mother about that one. (Laughs)
Favorite photograph you’ve ever taken: I can’t say I’ve stumbled across that one yet. I’m really not satisfied with my work at the moment. I feel like I have quite a way to go and I haven’t even began to create what it is I’m truly supposed to create and say through my work yet. I think the closest thing would be your picture sitting on the ground covered, Kadia. That image really shows a lot of strength, and soul…very empowering. (Ed Note: Thank you Justin! That photo will forever be one of my favorites!)
Things that grind my gears are… I really just don’t like selfish, close-minded, or disrespectful people. That’s about it…don’t really have much to bitch about and my life is pretty good. I’m too busy to care about the bullshit on a person-to-person level.
As far as any social issues, politics, famine, or anything along those lines, I’m not really focused on it right now. I kind of block it all out. I feel like this shit will continue as it has for quite some time and I’m really just trying to build myself up to a position socially and financially, where I have a real hand of power to make an impact to change the things I want to change for the better of everyone.
Wait…just thought of something. I’m really pissed off about how the black community can’t seem to get it together, bring about a support/economic system for ourselves, so ourselves and our children can have something in the future.
Also, how all these young black men keep getting killed and all we can do as a revolution is put our fucking hands up in peace, as if our ancestors haven’t done all of these things. And the only most impactful results I can recall is the Black Power Era between the late 60’s and mid 70’s when we were fighting back.
But, yeah…anyway, like I said…looking to build something, before I talk a bunch of stuff before I can really do anything on my own, since my people have a hard time coming together as a whole. (Laughs)
What my work means to me is…To me, my work means everything. Any art forms I create in, which are various mediums, means the world to me. It has gotten me where I am in life thus far and I’d like to think I’m in an ok place. Definitely not where I know I’m destined to be, but I mean, I could be a major drug dealer, in jail, or dead with the path I’ve been on in my youth. So, art…my work especially is everything to me, it saved my life from my own self-destruction.
What’s happening? As of right now, I’m stuck in between the land of commercial and fine art work in my photography field. I’m trying to explore more of my fine art to tell stories and explore expressing my voice through this medium. [I want to] get in some museums, get in some film festivals, the theaters (long term though).
The thing I am most focused on right now is creating both a visual series of tasteful nudity, as well as a coffee table photo book of elegant nudes accompanied with poetry. Also, I have a few collections to submit to a few galleries.