Melbourne based contemporary photographer Todd Johnson definitely sees the world in a different light. This guy has a seriously beautiful connection to nature that reflects solely into his works, he's rather unique and remarkable approach to photography is ultimately Intriguing to say the least. Read the full interview below.
How you feeling right now?
Pretty, pretty, pretty good!
Where did you grow up?
I grew up in the coastal corridors of South Eastern Melbourne, Victoria.
Did the place play a role in the person you are today?
Sure, I think place will inevitably have, at least some degree of impact in shaping our identity. Place and identity are intrinsically bound together. As is biology and identity. However, I think biology is alarmingly misconceived in today’s ‘post-truth’, postmodern society. It has been a privilege to grow up in the relatively liberal democracy of Australia.
How would you describe your aesthetic?
Neo-pictorialism meets Vilém Flusser.
Can you talk us through the process in which you go through to create these images???
The photographs in this series were shot along Berlin’s various canals and lakes. They started out as a very straight, descriptive, documentation of place. However, once the film had been developed, I returned to the discreet location where the photograph was originally captured to submerge the film underwater. Gradually, the film became malleable, as colour layers were stripped away, and the minerals, bacteria and pollution of the water slowly disintegrated the medium into an unpredictable abstraction of colour and texture. In most cases the film was left to fester underwater for durations of approximately 3 – 8 weeks. After the film was left outside to dry, bacteria continued to eat away the image into material abstraction, demolishing the pictorial, and freeing the photo-object from the burden of depiction.
What’s the story behind this ‘Treading Water’ series??
This series was produced on artist residency at Somos Art House in Berlin from December 2017 – March 2018, which culminated in a solo exhibition. The work is a response to place itself, as I attempted to incorporate elements of the landscape into the photographic development process. In much of my work, I view the environment as a kind of collaborator or co-author of my photographs as I attempt to document the unique physical presence of place.
Your inspiration seems to draw a lot from nature and surroundings? Can you talk to us about this infatuation?
My inspiration from nature is at least in part derived from my interest in the work of the early inventors of photography. Like Fox Talbot and Louis Daguerre, I am interested in the alchemy of image making, as I experiment with the effects of various chemicals, materials and natural elements on the development process. In past series, I have submerged photographic negatives in energy drinks and alcohol for durations of up to two years, buried photographs underground, and placed live creatures directly inside my Rolleiflex.
I once placed a live wolf spider inside my camera, loaded it with film then photographed the discreet area where the creature was found. It soon began to weave a web, entangling the other tiny articles gleaned from the landscape that I placed inside. When I received the film back from the lab, I could see the in-camera photogram of the spider and shadow of its web on top of the picture plane! I fed my newfound friend a dead fly as reward shortly before I released it back into the garden.
Do you remember the first picture you ever took?
Not technically a permanent ‘photograph’. However, I distinctly remember when I was about 4 or 5 I used to sit in front on the Television screen and firmly blink to freeze and capture the passing pictures in the darkness of my closed eye vision. The photons would warp into a delirium of particles appearing as afterimages that slowly vanished over time. Upon reflection, I think there has been something of this process materialized within my practice ever since.
What makes you happy?
Friends, art, films, comedy, animals, vitamin D, hummus and when Jordan Peterson goes ‘full beast mode’.
What makes you sad?
Imbalances or deficiencies of the former.
What do you like to do when you’re not taking photos?
I enjoy teaching and spending time with friends and family mainly. I also run a national student photography showcase and competition called ‘EXPOSURE’ https://www.exposurephoto.net. These things tend to take up the majority of my time.
How do you relax?
Meditation certainly helps. I’ve been practicing mindfulness meditation on and off for the past 13 years. This year I’ve made a concerted effort to increasingly factor this in to my daily routine.
One movie? One track? One book?
Gummo by Harmony Korine
Harvest Moon by Neil Young
Our Lady of the Flowers by Jean Genet
Favourite place in the world? And why?
Naoshima Island, Japan.
Sublime landscapes, great food, Tadao Ando, Hiroshi Sugimoto, James Turrell, Lee Ufan, Cy Twombly, Gerhard Richter, et al.
What is your least favourite thing about humanity?
‘Gingers’ and the human capacity for evil.
If I was talking to one of your best mates, what is one thing they would say you need to work on?
Clean my car and/or cut those sideburns.
What is the funniest thing that has happened to you recently??
About a week ago, one of my students got up and sang opera in front of the entire class when we were attempting to discuss Foucault’s concept of Heterotopia. The phrases ‘what do you think?’ and ‘what do you sing’ can obviously sound very similar.
What’s your star sign?
Where do you see yourself in the next 5 years????
That’s a difficult question to answer! I’ve recently thought about moving to Berlin to teach photography once I finish my PhD. Phoenix rising from the ashes kinda stuff. I suppose only time will tell.