By: Stocksy

Contributor Interview: Kayla Johnson

In this Contributor Interview, you can learn more about how Kayla Johnson uses analog cameras to document and archive the world as it happens around her.

With her heart on her sleeve, Kayla documents the everyday life of her friends.

We love seeing the broad range of the beautifully mundane moments you capture, and it makes us wonder if you are always ready to capture what happens or if you plan ahead and consciously take your camera along.

Hi Stocksy, thank you so much. It’s completely spontaneous! I’m no good at planning shoots and prefer to capture things as they happen. I have a small compact camera within reach most of the time.

What are some situations, moments, or objects that you find yourself most drawn to?

I photograph things I don’t want to forget or take for granted. I’m drawn to really simple things: the smile of a loved one, changing seasonal light, a housemate’s puffy face in the morning or a gust of wind billowing through curtains. I wish I could capture smells but that technology is a way off.

And what makes these so special for you to capture?

I want to archive and document things. Looking at my photos, it’s easy to see what’s important to me and what I value. I wear my heart on my sleeve in that way. I’m sentimental and I think that comes through in my work.

When you are out with your camera, do you grab photos as the inspiration strikes or are you actively looking for specific moments to capture?

I go with the flow and try to be present when I’m taking photos. People say that film photography is grounding and helps you slow down. I tend to agree.

As soon as a camera comes out, people will often stop what they’re doing and become camera aware, but in your work, it seems as if the camera hardly exists, and the magic of the moment goes on naturally. How do you go about making people feel comfortable and relaxed when you have your camera out?

I think people around me have gotten used to being photographed. If you spend a day with me, you’ll see I’m just documenting things as they happen, including interactions with friends. I usually have my camera at the ready and then ask my friend to look in my direction or at the camera every now and then. I don’t direct people too much nor very well.

Can you tell us a bit about your journey with photography and why analog photography is the medium of your choice?

Do you remember the Polaroid iZone Instant Pocket Camera? I was 8 when I got one for Christmas and have been taking photos ever since! I also had some high school teachers who were generous with their time and taught me how to use the school darkroom over summer break. At that time I was also getting really into Lomography and the creative Flickr photo communities online.

These days film is much more expensive. That sucks, obviously, but has made analogue photos that much more valuable and special. I think film has made me a more considered photographer.

How do you make sure that your work still stays enjoyable and that you don’t burn out on creating new content?

I take breaks, find new inspiration and try to inject some fun into my shooting practices: use cheaper cameras or try an experimental film.

I don’t approach photography as a deeply serious practice and this produces the photos I like best.

A woman working from home is wearing an orange shirt at a white table. Her orange kitten is laid out across her arms while she works.
Kayla Johnson

Is there something that you can not go without while creating new work? And why is this so important?

Good film labs that do high-resolution, quality scans. Without them I just have canisters of wound plastic memories sitting in my fridge.

Discover more of Kayla Johnson's work