Craig Johnson is our Exhibitor of the Month for the second half of June. Craig is relatively new to The Blue Room, so we thought we’d get to know him, and his work, a little better…
Where were you born? How long have you lived in North Somerset?
I’m a Yorkshireman by birth and raised by a Welshman. However I have lived and travelled all over the world and have only been back in the UK for a few years, finally settling here in Portishead a year ago.
Have long have you been taking photographs? Manipulating images?
I bought myself a PC when I was around 17, using money from working in McDonald’s and a school grant. At the time I was doing A-levels in graphics and art so naturally I started tinkering with images around then and loved it. I made album covers for friends’ bands and posters for gigs. My passion for photography was born around the same time when I bought myself a digital camera. Before then it was just cheap disposable cameras I would use every now and then and never felt much pride in the results. With my own camera and some photo editing software, I felt I could take a little more ownership for the images and how they came out.
Do you have any formal training in photography?
Not at all. I never had any contact with this world growing up and it seems to have come from within me and grown out of trail and error.
Do you have a studio/office? Is it clean and tidy or a bit of a mess and muddle?
I have moved almost every year or two for the last fifteen years, believe it or not. So I currently work in a spare room that is also a music room, guest room and a play room for my 6 month old son. I do like a clean working environment though so it is always pretty tidy despite its ever changing use. A studio would be amazing and perhaps I’ll have one someday.
What camera do you use? If several, which is your favourite?
I currently own an Olympus M5 II. It’s a micro four thirds digital camera so it’s small, modern yet retro classy and can do a lot. Before that have been various different digital cameras that died in frosts, rain storms or were dropped in sea water and down a metal staircase. The camera that defined me as a photographer was my humble Nikon D40 DSLR that punched way above its weight in quality and helped me take some really beautiful shots.
Do you enjoy photographing people as well as scenery?
Looking at scenery from a ‘capture it’ state of mind and getting a great shot speaks volumes to me. However, I’ve never really felt this impulse with people. I guess that’s because I love to be surrounded by scenery, but not by people and the great people I do meet I can stay in touch with through Facebook, emails and visits. I can’t do that with scenery I’ve passed through.
When you are taking photographs, do you already ‘see’ how they will look when you have manipulated them or does that come during the process?
I do tend to visualise how the final photo will turn out, especially as I often take multiple shots to make panoramic pictures or multiple exposures to get even lighting. Although when it comes to manipulating them in Photoshop for my ‘art’ it’s a give and take between choosing a photo that I feel will come out well using my various methods and ones I know will be better off remaining just a photograph.
Is there a place or a person you would really like to photograph?
In a way it’s both. I have been on some really great cycle trips or run over amazing mountain terrain and it’s near impossible to capture myself traversing through them. When I show my son photos of myself when he’s older, I’d like them to capture who I am and what I love. Unfortunately the occasional selfie doesn’t quite do this.
Do you prefer to work in silence? With music? The TV?
I often listen to rock, indie, folk and electro music and take mini breaks for some drumming on my desk, singing or dancing to make my baby laugh and boogie.
Is there another craft/art that you’d like to have a go at?
I tried a lot through my art studies and travels and know what suits me or that I can handle. So not sure at the moment. I think with the progress 3D digital printers are taking or virtual reality something will appear that you can make some interesting art with and I don’t mean typical sculpture, but something that can show waves, spray, translucent wash, grainy sand, summer haze and so on.
What other jobs have you had?
The usual Uni jobs in retail and then all kinds of education and training roles. I have taught English in Asia, New Zealand and the UK. I have taught cycling, guitar, bike mechanics and I’m sure I will do some art therapy classes in the future. Now I teach young children to ride a bike for the first time in Portishead and look after my son, Bryn.
Can you tell us your favourite Artist (in any medium), musician, TV programme, book, place, colour and food?
I love the artists Mucha and Monet, the bands Oceansize and Radiohead, TV shows like Game of Thrones and documentaries, books such as The Beach and Sherlock Holmes, any place that’s a little wild and rugged like around Iceland, all shades of blue and finally I really enjoy mixing all the foods I have fallen in love with whilst on my travels in a haphazard way that often works, but sometimes really doesn’t.
Many thanks to Craig for his fascinating answers to our questions. If you’d like to see Craig’s artwork, do drop into the shop. And if you can’t get there, we do have the coasters featuring the four scenes shown here in the form of coasters, available here in our online shop.