Interview with…Tim Johnson

Photos by Tim Johnson

Tim Johnson was born and raised in surrounding area of Chicago, IL. He started skateboarding at age 11 and photographing at age 16. He graduated from Columbia College Chicago with a BFA in Photography in December of 2011.

Can you tell us something about you?
I eat when I’m bored and I clean when I’m anxious.

Where do you live and work now?
I recently graduated and am hoping to find work in and move to the west coast this winter.

How did you start taking pictures? Usually there is always the old story of the boy who finds his grandfather’s camera, did that happen to you as well or not?
My first real experience was in a high school B&W photography class. This was also my first experience being excited about school. Shortly after, I bought my first film camera (which I still use) and started obsessively shooting my friends while we were out skateboarding. The same process of shooting holds true today.

Have you thought right away to follow the existing trends in photography or has it been a need to look for different styles and themes that have motivated you?
I take pictures when I am out skateboarding and with my friends and the camera I use is totally decided by that. I use 35mm because it is fast, easy and matches the pace of the world around me. I use black and white film because it has a timeless quality that reminds me of why I loved photography when I was 16.

Where your inspiration comes from?
I get inspiration from so many places. Most importantly, my friends. We have a productive, creative environment and the work of my peers gets me excited and motivated to continue my own projects.

In a portrait, what is important for you?
There are 2 different styles of portraits that I shoot. The first kind is like a sneak attack where I’m looking for a perfect moment. If I find someone acting or posed in a way that I find interesting, I wait for their attention to be drawn to me. When they do look, I shoot before they have time to react to the presence of my camera.

The second style is the exact opposite. I will grab someone I’m with, tell to stand still for a portrait and I shoot. I started doing this as an experiment/ reaction to the amount of candid photos I shoot. The result is an image that is sarcastic, awkward and true all at the same time.

Witch kind of relationship do you have with your subject when you shoot?
I wouldn’t consider the people I photograph my “subjects.” They are just my friends and I think that my camera is just a part of their experience of having me as a friend.

Do you think it’s important to follow a school to learn how to shoot?
No, I don’t. I think school is just one way to go about getting an education. I went to school for photography because it seemed like the next step for me after high school and at the time I needed more direction.

What’s the photo you want to take and you never did?
Whenever I don’t have my camera on me I watch moments I would like to photograph come and go.

What’s your last project that are you working on ?
The last project I felt passionate about is a project I call the “Windsor Knot.” I mix my photography with screen printed stock images of business men. It was a reaction to all the advertisements I see using a fabricated image of skateboard culture. My goal was to create a roll reversal where I had the power to use a generalized image of the business world however I wanted.

What’s your photo-mission?
I want to keep shooting and accumulating this family album of skateboarders/friends for as long as possible!

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