Johanna Stickland’s Candid World of Women
After a short stint as a model during her teenage years, Johanna Stickland‘s life went back to a fairly modest rhythm. Relocating to a small town in Portugal from Calgary, Canada, she now works as a photographer and painter, documenting women within intimate settings. Her subjects are ones that she has befriended or encountered, all serving as beautiful visions of simplicity. Below, we dive into Johanna’s candid world, speaking further on her latest endeavors, what modeling taught her about creating imagery, and why it may be dangerous to have heroes.
Image courtesy of Amanda Jas
My name is Johanna Stickland and I am a photographer and artist. My life right now is peaceful and exciting all at once!
Living in Portugal is dreamy and a little isolating. It’s a romantic place that feels lost in time. There are elegant old crumbling buildings everywhere and amazing tile patterns. At night, everything is lit by these soft golden lamps and it’s very pretty. It’s a good place to make work. The general mood is a bit sad, weather is lovely, food is great, and people are quiet and modest but very warm once you get to know them. I still don’t really speak Portuguese so it can be lonely sometimes.
Being a model in my teenage years taught me patience. Most importantly, it allowed me to observe a few great photographers who left an impact on me, which later inspired me to take my own photos. Photographers who have inspired me were Nan Goldin, Araki, Hajime Sawatari, and Lina Scheynius.
My photography is about documenting the situations and people that are beautiful or interesting to me hopefully in an honest, intimate way. The subjects seen in my work are mostly girls. They are either good friends, strangers, or acquaintances that I’ve reached out to because I want to photograph them.
One project I am currently working on is a self-portrait photo essay for a magazine. When I first started taking photos, I took a lot of self-portraits because I was the only person around and I wanted to experiment. Now, I’m just interested in shooting other people so it will be a cool challenge to go back and try the self-portrait thing again.
If I could photograph one person in this world, living or dead, it would probably be Isabelle Huppert. She is so intense and someone I really admire. I saw her last summer on stage in “The Maids” in New York along with Cate Blanchett (another person I would totally love to photograph). If I could, I would love to bring back Vincent van Gogh from the dead and take his portrait.
I consider the most important things in life to be love, kindness, art, and freedom. I find inspiration in faces, paintings, poetry, and light. Looking at pictures online and watching movies by Mike Leigh, Michael Haneke, and David Lynch. I find a lot of inspiration in my personal relationships with others, traveling, and going on little adventures to new places.
I am truly grateful for my health and the health of my loved ones, to have a roof over my head, food in the fridge, and to be with someone I’m crazy about who I believe in and who believes in me. Also, to have the freedom to do what I want and to have the luxury of time to work on my projects, for anyone who allows me to photograph them! I couldn’t ask for much more. I’m grateful for a lot these days.
My hero is nobody in particular. I think it can be a bit dangerous to have heros, especially if you meet them or find out some weird fact about them—the illusion is shattered! There are many individuals who have pretty heavily influenced my life and point of view though. Some of these main people are Leonard Cohen, Federico Garcia Lorca, Lucian Freud, Virginia Woolf, and Isabelle Eberhardt.
The biggest challenge in my life at the moment is dealing with feelings of self-doubt. Sometimes, I think what I’m doing sucks, and it’s challenging to keep going when the stuff you make doesn’t turn out how you envisioned it. These negative feelings make for really unproductive times. I just try to remind myself to follow what gives me true enjoyment and keep going.
The best advice I have been given is to never take anyone’s advice! Actually though. A piece of advice that has stuck with me is to never compare yourself to anyone else. “Comparison is the thief of joy.” I love that quote and I remind myself of it sometimes.
If I could have only one, my WILD wish would be to time travel!