We had the good fortune of connecting with Samantha Johnston and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Samantha, why did you decide to pursue a creative path?
I suppose for me, it wasn’t the case of pursuing, it has always been a way of life and not a career. I work to be able to fund my practice and luckily I have been able to work in the creative arts to do this. From a young age I was always creating and it wasn’t until I was in the last years of my school where it became a problem. It was frowned upon to want to want to go to Art school and this stunted me for a while in my creativity and it took a while to build up the courage to go public with my work, but I always kept making the work and finally got myself a studio where things really began to progress for me.
Let’s talk shop? Tell us more about your career, what can you share with our community?
I am a photographer where all my work is shot analogue and developed in my studio in London. Before I became a photographer my background was in painting so everything I learnt in photography was self-taught. I write down ideas, words or phrases in my notebook collected from cinema and philosophy that will eventually become sets that I create to photograph.
Slowly I’ll begin collecting the props for my sets. Weeks later I’ll come back to an idea and start creating the scene. I just can’t let go of a story in my head until I’ve played it out completely. It’s like this meditative process of setting up a staged set, from lighting right through staging the objects. So everything is very much intentioned. After I complete a shoot I go straight to the darkroom to process the film.
Creating work traditionally in analogue formats is a lot of work. From prop sourcing, setting up the scenes, figuring out the lighting, to then developing the film and hand printing. Printing itself can take and has taken me up to 8 hours a day to do. Don’t forget the mounting and framing afterwards too! After all that, you realise, how do I get this online? Which is one my biggest challenges and still is!
I see my practice as part of my life, there is no separation. It sounds cliché but everything I do comes into my practice, especially literature and films, it all feeds into my work, even coffee! For me to truly get away and allow time to rest is to be by the sea. I am feeling clogged and overloaded at the moment. Though I have created a sanctuary at home where I am truly lucky to fill the walls with photographic prints and art from artists that I absolutely love. I can just step into the hall or bathroom for a breather and admire the work.Let’s say your best friend was visiting the area and you wanted to show them the best time ever. Where would you take them? Give us a little itinerary – say it was a week long trip, where would you eat, drink, visit, hang out, etc.
This is hard one as even though I have been living in London for 7 years now, I am still finding my way round. And for me getting away from the busy city sounds more bliss that hanging out in the city. I would probably do the opposite of taking them out and bring them round to my home, cook some great food and relax to good music and films.
I would love to bring a group of my friends back home to Ireland and spend a week by the sea to get away from the city.The Shoutout series is all about recognizing that our success and where we are in life is at least somewhat thanks to the efforts, support, mentorship, love and encouragement of others. So is there someone that you want to dedicate your shoutout to?
My partner and constant inspiration, Nick Jones who has taught me so much, and has made me become a better artist. I wouldn’t be where I am today without the support of mentors from Belfast Art school and University of Westminster, Louise Wallace, Paddy McCann, David Bate and Lucy Soutter.
Also all my friends who I have made in London who continue to support me. They truly mean everything to me!