Meet one of our most well-traveled Art Store photographers Steve Johnson.
Johnson is a photographer, backpack journalist, staff member and adjunct lecturer at the University of Florida in Gainesville.
We were able to ask Johnson some questions and learn how he shares his passion for exploring the world through photography.
How did you get into Photography and Journalism?
I failed AP biology in high school and quickly realized that science was not my thing. My brother had a Nikon DSLR and he taught me how to use it. I was addicted.
But I was also told it was just a hobby. This fueled me to prove the point that photography can be a career. So I started a business in high school shooting sports and by the time I was a senior I was working for The Orlando Sentinel and ESPN and was making enough money to support my career going into college.
What kind of training or education did you receive?
Not much, really.
I attended the Summer Journalism Institute at UF when I was in high school and took a four day class, but by then I was already working 4-5 sporting events a week. I feel like this actually helped me develop an eye on my own instead of being taught how to compose photos.
But I would be nowhere without some fantastic mentors, Gary Green from The Orlando Sentinel and Bill Frakes from Sports Illustrated made me the photographer I am today.
Why did you choose backpack journalism/photography as your area of focus? Can you tell a little more about your interest in that?
Media is changing and changing fast. When I interned at The Miami Herald, I noticed that not many journalists could write, shoot photos and videos all on one assignment. I knew there could be a more efficient way at reporting, so I focused on traveling light and producing content for as many platforms as possible — all while keeping the quality high and my storytelling true. Then the BP oil spill came and The Herald generously sent me out on that assignment for two months. It was the perfect place to hone in on these reporting techniques.
What accolades or awards have you received for your work?
Talk about the honor of receiving those awards.
I have always prided myself on never winning an award. I can’t stand photographers and journalists who define themselves by a plaque on their wall.
Unfortunately, while I was a student at UF, I did place in the national Hearst competition for multimedia reporting.
I feel like my work is judged by the people who enjoy it and are informed by it. If that happens, then I am the most decorated journalists I want to be.
What is your favorite photo/work/piece you have done and why is it your favorite?
Iceland. Iceland. Iceland!
It is the most beautiful place in the world with the nicest people.
You feel like you’re on another planet that is constantly changing. In one day of driving you can go from mountains and volcanos to glaciers to waterfalls to black sand beaches. It is truly an amazing place that you can escape to.
What advice can you give to up-and-coming artists/photographers?
Just keep shooting. It’s that simple.
If you’re in this for money or raising your number of followers than you’re never going to succeed.
Photography is an extension of who you are. No matter if I’m shooting 300 days a year or 30, I am a photographer and I don’t need a fancy studio or 100,000 people on Twitter to affirm that.
This is the most magical expression of art there is. You can stop time. You can make people pause and reflect. Now more than ever, we need to slow down and notice the world around us.
Photographers get to do that every day — whether it’s with a fancy Nikon camera or an Apple iPhone.
Find your passion and then build a plan to make it happen.
What are you currently working on?
Oh my. Well, that is a loaded question.
Currently, I am teaching at the University of Florida and working on the communications team at the College of Journalism and Communications. I am also finishing my master’s degree in entrepreneurship from the Warrington College of Business and keeping up with my commercial and editorial photography. I also consult for a number of companies building social media campaigns.
But most importantly, I am shooting for myself now more than ever. The work you see in the Fracture Art Store is entirely personal work. I love that about this collection. The photos were not part of any assignment or particular story, they are my passion for exploring the world.
How can people keep in touch with you?
Like most photographers, I am terrible at updating my blog, so Twitter is the best way to get a hold of me. I am avid on Instagram and love that platform for sharing experiences.
Check out more of Steve Johnson’s photos at the art store.