Artist Interview - Jamie Johnson
Welcome, Jamie. "Growing up Travelling" describes both this series and your work as a photo-artist.
I have spent 20 years traveling the world photographing children. I have always been interested, as a mom of two girls, in how children are raised throughout the world. I've photographed through India, Thailand, Laos, Cambodia, Bali, Mongolia, Mexico, Cuba, Ecuador, Amazon tribes in South America, as well as many European countries. My repeat trips to Ireland brought me closer to Traveller families, and I really needed to continue to return, to see these kids over and over again, as I felt a bond that I wasn't ready to let go of.
How have you found that Irish Traveller kids compare to others you've worked with in other places?
Honestly, the beauty of children is universal. Kids are kids; they love to play, and discover, and learn, and grow. Some children have harder lives, struggling with poverty, or abuse, or racism. To me all children have the same love, and hope, and dreams.
Travellers are almost always misportrayed in the media. What is their life like when seen from the inside?
It's complicated for me to answer. I am not a Traveller and don't want to speak for them. I know life is not easy; they are not treated with any respect by other citizens or the government. They suffer from a lot of criticism and judgment and stereotypes, and they are not allowed to be proud of their lives by outsiders. It's sad and heartbreaking and very wrong.
With good reason, Travellers are self-isolating. How did you overcome their initial reluctance to be photographed.
It is a tricky community, as they are so used to being treated badly by non-Travellers. They want to protect their lives and lifestyles from racist outsiders who wish to hurt them or call the police or government to complain about their living on the land. My intentions are always honest, and I connect well with moms and children. Most importantly, my goal has been to share their story and hope for a better understanding of the lives and culture they live. Combating discrimination and helping with compassion is what I want for all of these families.
You started young as a photographer.
I have always had a camera. Long before I ever considered myself a photographer, I photographed everything. Back in middle school and high school, if my friends had a birthday, they could always count on getting photos from me. If we went to a concert or street fair, I was always taking photos. When I went to NYU, in order to to buy food and essentials, I started taking headshots for actors. I have always had a camera in my back pack. But it wasn't until my late 20's that I realized that this was my passion and perhaps I should get serious about it.
Are you analog? Digital? Both??
I started with film back the the 80's...110, 120, 35mm etc., etc. It took me a few extra years to transition to digital when it became all the rage. The black and whites were just not good enough for
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