Biddy, Irish Traveller © Jamie Johnson


Jamie Johnson’s portfolio Growing Up Traveling  was chosen as a 2020 Rfotofolio Merit Award by juror Ann Jastrab.  We are pleased to share her work here on Rfotofolio.

Please click on images to see a different view.

Would you please tell us about yourself?

I am a mom and a fine art and documentary photographer specializing in children. My work takes me through alternative processes as well as documentary photography of children from all over the world.

Where did you get your photographic training?

When I first started, I was self-taught, I was the kid with a camera in her backpack taking photos of friends on the playground from 2nd grade all the way through parties in college. Later as it became a full-time profession, I felt obligated to start taking classes and to master everything about photography from darkroom to fashion photography to travel documentary etc. etc. I wanted to be able to do everything.

Who has had an influence on your creative process?

As a child my mom had the Diane Arbus’ coffee table book. I spent hours and years going through it, wondering who were these people? Why were these photos so compelling? I was obsessed with each and every photo.

Please tell us about an image (not your own) that has stayed with you over time.

Diane Arbus images with the young ballroom kids, and the teenage couple, and of course the identical twins have been imprinted in my head since I was a child. Each image tells such a strong story. Later in life, Sally Mann’s candy cigarette has become one of my all-time favorite photos.

What image of yours would you say taught you an important lesson.

In 2007, I started shooting wet plate collodion and what I learned is getting a three-year-old to stand for a ten second exposure was HARD and getting a dog or cat to, was almost impossible.

Please tell us about the work you submitted to the Rfotofolio Call.

I have been photographing children all over the world for 20 years. As a mother of two I am always fascinated by learning how children are raised from the tribes of the Rainforest to the young monks in Asia. It has been a lifelong passion finding the commonality that is simply childhood.

On one of my many journeys I went to Ireland to photograph the children Travellers. In all the countries I have traveled, this was the first time I was really hit with the discrimination and bullying these children face every day. How could anyone hate a child? It really affected me and I went back several times over four years and really just fell in love with the culture and lives of these fantastic kids. In all my work I always want to portray the child is a child no matter where and how they live. Suddenly it became so much more important to me after seeing the terrible treatment, poverty, and stereo-typing these particular children face. It was never my intention to make a book, but suddenly I wanted to show them for who they are, smart, funny, happy, children who are not thieves or criminals, who are kids. I thought if I could change one person’s opinion or educate on person about the Travellers it would all be worth it.

Since the book was released, I have received endless messages from all over the world similar to this one from a man in Ireland, “I just saw your book on the Traveller kids. I’m Irish and never heard anything good about the Travellers my whole life. Ever. Your book brought out the humanization of Traveller kids as just kids, and it was beautiful I have found a new respect. Thank you.” More than anything I could have hoped for.

What part of image-making do you find the most rewarding?

I love it so much. Getting that perfect moment captured forever is like a drug.

How do you work through times when nothing seems to work?

Sometimes it gets frustrating, I had this multi-lens camera and shooting six different photos on one plate and getting my child to hold each six second exposure then change and hold and change and hold six times before the plate dried was killer. Alot of wasted chemicals and plates, but when it worked it was incredible. I get a bit obsessed and won’t quit, it took me five different dogs to get the right one for one image in my “Vices series”.

What tools have you found essential in the making of your work?

Passion really. If I love the idea or subject, I can work with anything.

Is there something in photography that you would  like to try in the future?

Everything! I’m always up for a challenge and always excited to try something new.

How does your art affect the way you see the world?

I really connect with kids. Because my work always revolves around children, I really take a moment anytime I’m with another child to ask them about their day or holidays or life, my children are usually embarrassed, but I truly care about kids.  So many adults just talk over them or about them, but not necessarily to them.

How has the pandemic influenced your work methods? Or has it?

The Pandemic has been hard. I travel a lot for work and have been getting a little crazy not using my camera. Then I found a wonderful children’s circus troop, who allowed me in with Covid tests and masks and my 200mm lens and just when I was getting super down, I found my inspiration again and have been shooting these kids since last summer.

Thank you Jamie.

To learn more about the work of Jamie Johnson please visit her site at Jamie Johnson.


Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.