Welcome to my weekly Q&A sessions where I talk to Jamaican creatives about their lives, their work and the contributions they make to Jamaica through their art.
Today’s interview will be with Nicholas A. Johnson @nicholasajohnsonphotography), a Jamaican photographer that specialises in wedding, commercial and lifestyle photography. I've known Nicholas for several years now and have partnered on several projects ranging from brand identity projects to website redesigns.
I wanted to do a Q&A session with Nicholas A. Johnson because one, he is a Jamaican creative, and two, he has the unique perspective of being a commercial photographer. I’m not a photographer, so I wanted to talk to someone who can provide insight into the mind of a photographer, how to handle criticism and how to find happiness in what you do.
Where are you from?
I come from cool cool Mandeville, country boy, you understand me?
How did you come up with the name Nicholas A Johnson Photography?
So the Nicholas A. Johnson Photography brand came about from the desire of being the face of the company. I consider myself someone who represents excellence, good customer service, and someone who has the skills and assets to bring across quality work. When someone talks about the business or talks to the company, they would be talking about me or to me. I mean, at the end of the day it is my work, so it does make sense to name my business after myself.
Where are you working right now?
Right now, I am working full time for Nicholas A Johnson Photography.
What is your daily routine?
In the mornings, I have devotions, breakfast, do a little work out here and there. I’ve slacked off on the exercise since the lockdowns, but I am working on it (laughs). I post every morning and evening to get the word out about my business. Consistency is the key to social media. I’ll send off emails in the mornings, get in touch with clients and then the rest of the day I spend editing photos.
How do you handle rejection or criticism?
At first, it was hard. Not just the critique of my work by others but my criticisms as well. I always thought my work wasn’t good enough, and I would become my most demanding critic. While I had devotion, the Lord reminded me that he had not given me a spirit of fear but of power and of love (2 Timothy 1:7) and that helped me to move away from the stigma of my thoughts and judgements and to put out my work. The thoughts of people’s validation were there as well, but hey, it comes with life, and that’s something I learned.
7 For the Spirit God gave us does not make us timid, but gives us power, love and self-discipline.
The more I knew, the more I was able to put myself and my content out there. What’s the worst that could happen, right? It’s better that I tried and failed than I didn’t try at all. Not everyone is going to appreciate and value your work, and that is something that I learned as creative and every time you get a no, that’s one step closer to a yes. You have to have confidence in your work, and when you have confidence in your work, others will have faith in it as well.
How would you describe your photography style?
My photography style tends to be close to natural as possible, especially when it comes to skin and retouching. I don’t like to airbrush skin because people are beautiful and retouching would make their skin look fake. The only thing I would do is accentuate that beauty. I keep it natural by using natural lighting, and if I need to use a lighting kit, I will try to keep it as close to natural as possible.
What tools do you use daily?
My MacBook Pro, my Wacom tablet, my DSLR camera and that’s about it. Those are essential to my photography business, so I keep them very close.
What projects are you working on right now?
I’m currently working on a project with Petals and Promises, some professional headshots, photographs. I’m also working on something with PEP, and hopefully, I get to drop that soon and build some buzz on social media.
What would you consider your greatest accomplishment so far as a Jamaican creative?
I would say getting referrals. Now, I know what you’re thinking, ‘what? I thought he was going to say a magazine or something,’ but no.
The most significant achievement for me is when a client does business with me, and they leave extremely happy with the service, with the quality of work, with the experience, and they tell a friend. That friend then tells a friend who tells a friend, and it goes on and on. So, that’s my greatest accomplishment so far as a Jamaican creative. There have been cases where I did get awards for my work, but that pales in comparison to getting feedback from a happy client who was extremely pleased with my service.
Who are your favourite types of clients?
My favourite clients are people who keep it real, know what they are looking for and understand the value of creativity. My clients are people who appreciate the art and will pay for the art. I’m not talking the upper echelon society, just people who understand and appreciate the art and willing to pay for it. Especially the ones who understand that when I quote them, it’s from the place of giving the best that I have to offer.
I also like to work with clients in travel and lifestyle because they allow exploring new things, whether it is a unique culture or new area.
What do you like to do outside of work?
In my free time, I play tennis, I spend time with my significant other, and I connect with my life group where we talk about God and the word.
Where do you find inspiration?
It varies, but I’d say Vanessa Joy and Stan Love photography are names that I check out on social media. I live and learn from others on social media. The people I follow on social media are those who add value to my life. I follow people who I want to emulate or want to be in the future.
How can people find you?
You can find me on Instagram at Nicholas A Johnson Photography, my twitter handle is NAJ876, and everything else is just Mr NAJ876. If you want to see my work in the highest resolution, visit my website at www.nicholasajohnsonphotography.com/
What are you doing to develop Jamaica’s creative industry?
I use my platform to promote Jamaica. Whenever I post, I tag large international accounts in the wedding, commercial, lifestyle and event photography industries to let them know what Jamaica has to offer. Whenever they visit Jamaica, we would connect and showcase the quality of work Jamaican creatives can produce.
What’s next for Nicholas A Johnson?
Videography and Cinematography. I’ve already started, and it is interesting. I’ve tried cinematography before but didn’t take it too seriously, but now I am challenging myself to learn it. I am also trying to incorporate a lifestyle vibe into my engagement photography to make the experience more unique.