Charlotte E. Johnson is a contemporary fine-art photographer and emerging artist who lives and works in Auckland, New Zealand. Her work aims to evoke emotion and connection in those who view it, often driven and shaped by her own experiences with mental distress.
“I have been an artist at heart all my life. I come from a family of artists, and I was always encouraged in my practice by these incredible people. When I was younger, I didn’t give my pursuit of arts permission to be my career. Instead, I aligned myself with a research science path. During my studies, I was diagnosed with anxiety and depression. Art has always been my creative outlet and a kind of meditation which has helped me in times of mental distress, but it wasn’t until 2012 that I began my obsession with photography.
When I started taking photographs, I couldn’t imagine anything scarier and more intimidating than asking someone if I could take their portrait. In 2017, I secured a position as photographer and microscopist at the University of Auckland and photographing people was a frequent request. My confidence grew and my fear evolved into passion. For my own work, I started to collaborate with models, makeup artists, stylists, and other creative individuals to produce beautiful images. I discovered my own photographic look - my art is often described as painterly and ethereal. Over time, I began to realise the works which conveyed a sense of melancholy were the ones I truly connected with, undoubtedly due to my own experiences of mental distress, and this now informs my current practice. I can’t truly explain it, but I believe there is beauty, raw and honest, in sadness. My work ‘Unsustainable’ is part of a set exploring how exhausting it can be to live with mental illnesses. The series was displayed during the 2021 Auckland Festival of Photography and was awarded an Associate level Honours with the Royal Photography Society in the contemporary photography section.
With the impact of Covid-19, my subject matter diversified from studio portraiture into landscape, particularly seascapes. The west coast beaches of Auckland are very therapeutic places for me. I find myself drawn to water and how manipulation of a camera can show the different moods of the sea, from peaceful to turbulent, just like our own emotions. My series of images titled ‘Isolation’ shows the churning ocean whilst the nearby gannet colony hunkers down to wait out the rough conditions – in much the same way we all did during periods of lockdown. My future work aims to combine portraiture with seascapes, making use of the environment and found objects to create contemporary series.”
Charlotte’s limited edition fine-art prints can be purchased from Railway Street Studios. To view her work click here.