October 8, 2012

Steve Johns' interview

" My images are a construal of the natural world hence they must be true to the original scene that was in front of me at the time." Steve Johns

"Endangered Species"


"Shot using natural light only."

Dear Steve, how did your passion begin ?

I became interested in photography at about age 11 and saved all of my paper run money for a Kodak instamatic camera. The problem for me was learning from mistakes that you didn’t know you had made until after the film was developed. I spent the next 4 years taking pictures when I could afford the film and developing.

Then girls came along and that was pretty much the end of my photographic endeavors, in retrospect it should have been a new beginning. I did have another shot at photography about 15 years later and even managed to get a few landscape images and adventure stories printed in outdoors magazines but it was short lived due to the demands of my life as an adventure activities instructor working in remote locations.

It wasn’t until 2005 when I had a nasty accident on my motor bike at a race track that I decided to get back into photography as a form of recovery and recreation. Since then I have enjoyed it immensely and it’s a great way to get me back outdoors at a pace that best suits my disability since the accident.

Art Model Kitten

" This is one of three tunnels on the old Dorrigo - Glenreagh rail line which opened in 1924
and was closed 35 years ago."

Art is a wonderful therapy !... What is deeply inspiring you ?

Beautiful woman and wild places !

"For Jack and Ruby"

My two greatest loves is the natural environment and the female form so it stands to reason that I would combine the two in my images and then emphasize this beauty in BW.

20 years of my life was dedicated to taking people out on adventure education programs, canoeing, kayaking, rock climbing and traveling through some of the most remote and beautiful places both here in Australia and oversees.

I have a deep affinity with the natural environment and the challenges of exploring its seemingly untouched beauty. I have the same reverence for woman as they share similar characteristics, wild, unpredictable, dangerous and yet stunningly beautiful, a lifetime of exploration is not enough to reveal all of their moods and secrets.

The main aim of my images is to highlight (or contrast) the allure and beauty of both women and the natural environment and the asceticism necessary in navigating either.

Art Model Kitten

Do you feel you're inspired by one location more than another ?

I probably get most of my inspiration from the creeks, rivers and mountains, my favorite activity was white water kayaking so I just love the gorges, rapids, water falls, pools, sandy beaches and polished rocks that can be found along any of our creeks and rivers.

We also have a strong connection with water as a source of life and although it is difficult to shoot around water because of reflections, light, contrast and location it also provides some of the best photographic opportunities because of these attributes.

I see... You have so many beautiful landscapes in Australia. Now, who are your inspirators, your great guys in the job ?

People often say that some of my images remind them of the works of ‘such and such’ but I have to be honest and say that I know little of other artists and their work.

I do enjoy the artistic creativity of photographers like Gerhardt Thompson, Stefan Soell, Nuri Bilge, and Andreas Bitesnich but I try not to let any of their styles influence my own work to much. However, I do find a great deal of the photographic works presently coming out of eastern block countries to be truly unique and inspiring as they tend to see and experience life very differently to us and capture it in a way that portrays it’s harsh and gritty character very clearly.

"Do it"

"Natural Pleasure"

Art Model Kitten

Tell me about your preferences ? Outdoors and BW, it seems...

I definitely prefer outdoors and natural light only. In fact I generally shoot at the worst time of day in full sunlight with major contrast, and I do mean contrast under an Australian summer sun.

Although this makes shooting really difficult if you look closely and study your location you will find beautiful relationships of light and shadow that can be used to your creative advantage.

This contrast is best represented in BW hence 90% of my work is BW nudes in natural landscapes.

"Sun Kissed"
Art Model Kitten

"The Loft"
Art Model Tash

Are you obsessive ?

Until I picked up a camera again just a few years back I didn’t consider myself to even have an artistic or creative cell in my body, I spent all of my time doing crazy things in kayaks and traveling around looking for the next adventure. I even mocked visual art and artists because of the pricing and fashionable elitism, but now I can appreciate the multiple levels of talented visual artists out there and the value of being able to express your views and passions through creative imagery.

So to answer your question, yes the camera is my new passport to get back into wild and remote places to shoot beautiful models and locations. So I do become quite despondent if I’m not out there taking photos at least 1 day a week. In fact I recently had another operation on my leg and I’m back on crutches for 6 weeks and have not been out shooting now for a month so I’m a bit like a bear with a sore head.



How I understand you ! What is your process of artistic creation ? Like it comes, or very organized ?

I usually plan the location well ahead of the shoot but we are often at the mercy of accessibility and the weather as most of the locations are quite remote requiring either 4WD, canoe or walking access.

In general I know most of the country that we go into so it’s a case of timing to get the right light to be able to use the location to its best advantage. I really don’t do any more planning than that as the issues I mentioned will dictate how best to position the model and the poses that will emphasize the creativity and artistic relationship between the model and the location.

As is often the case I can aimlessly wander around a location scanning for photographic opportunities without any success at all and then something will just hit me and we will start shooting frantically, so I guess the artistic creativity is born from the inspiration of the location.

Art Model Kitten

Do you find easily your models ? What kind of ambiance do you install to warm the often shy atmospher of the beginnings ?

I live in a small town in a pretty conservative region of Australia so it is very difficult to find any artistic nude models, my partner is my muse and a fantastic model to work with, she loves being outdoors in remote places and it shows in the work that we do.

However, a number of models have contacted me via my web site to be involved in my work so I will usually arrange a meeting over a coffee in a “safe” public place so we can weigh each other up, go through my portfolio and discuss each others expectations of the shoot so that we both understand each others needs and how best to achieve them. It’s also handy to be able to offer a verbal reference from another tog who the model may know or has a high profile.

Art Model Kitten

I also take my partner along on the first shoot and go to a bit of trouble in stopping off at a nice café on route to/from the shoot and take some good food and drinks with us as we are often out all day in fairly remote locations.

I will often take a few test shots just for evaluating light and composition so I involve the model in this in a relaxed way and then allow the model the time and space to eventually remove the clothing they are comfortable about removing.

The confidence and comfort factor can be quite difficult for both photographer and model and this can make or break your shoot, but it has been my experience that if your model feels empowered and in control then you are on your way to a happy and successful shoot.

Art Model Scarlet

Art Model Kitten

" The Macintyre River in flood with the gorgeous Kitten poised upon an ancient flood scarred Bottle Brush tree."

Do you make many corrections or do you find immediately the final sense of your work ?

That’s a very difficult question, in the past I’ve tried to improve a particular image by re-shooting it and it was a disaster, the light is never the same, there’s too much wind or not enough, the mood is different, etc. So I just don’t do that any more. I’ve also gone out to shoot a particular idea, image or theme and that just turned out to be hard work without giving me the results I was after, as I mentioned before the idea, image or theme has to come from the ambiance of the location and the model at the time of being there.

However, my technical skills are still evolving so I’m getting better at seeing things and using the light and locations more creatively and I’m also getting better at post editing, so on the one hand my technical skills are improving and yet what I come away with from a shoot is final and will never be improved upon or repeated again. I guess this is the difference between a shooter working towards an end product or image for a client and a shooter who is trying to create art.

Art Model Scarlet

Of course. How do you know when your shooting is finished ?

When the sun has set… lol ! I generally only shoot for two hours at a time as it is intense work for me and the model, working in full sun between 10am and 5pm in summer in Australia is hot, damn hot! So we may do 2 or 3 two hour sessions in a day and even though I may get a series of shots that I am satisfied with if there is still time we may shoot at a different location or scout out a few new locations for a future date. A single image may be finished after shooting and minor editing but the artistic vision is never finished.

Art Model Kitten

Each shoot is quite individually different and I have my favorite locations that I will return to at a different time of year or with a different model so there isn’t really a sense of the work being finished.
It’s more a case of that particular shoot has come to an end and that can be a bit disappointing if everything went really well and we all had a great time.

I think it’s always a good idea to have a “debrief” about the days successes and how to continue improving and I will often extend an invitation to the model to be involved in another shoot in the future.

If there is enough time we will edit a few shots on returning home so that we get to see the end results and feel a sense of achievement.

"Summer Breeze"
Art Model Tash

What is your artistic dream ?

In short, to be able to achieve creative and technically balanced images that are consistent with the images that I see in my minds eye.

I would also like to shoot high end fashion, of course recognition of all of this would be exhibitions, sales and acknowledgement by my peers and critics

Nice challenges ! What would you want to do if everything was possible ?

Firstly travel around Australia shooting fine art nudes at some of our iconic locations like Ayers Rock and the Outback and then the World to do the same thing while experiencing as much of the spectacular landscapes and cultures as I can.

"Moved on"

Let's talk about your present. Have you scheduled your next exhibition ?

I haven’t had an exhibition yet nor do I expect to have one in the near future but I am in the very early stages of collaborating with someone to get a photographic sports book off the ground, I really can’t say more than that at this stage.

The only outlet for my art is currently my web site and it’s still early days, I’ve only been shooting consistently for two years and fine art nudes for less than a year so I need to get a larger body of work together.


What about your next future ?

Well I’m just getting over the fourth operation on my leg and because of my injuries I will never be able to return to my previous occupation. It will depend on the support available to me but I may go back to university and eventually pursue a career in education, I just have to get through the recovery and personal rebuilding phase before I can contemplate where to from here.

Thanks a lot Steve !

Art Model Kitten

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