Evan Johnson

Photographer Evan Johnson has a “pop-up” studio in the Judd Street Exchange above the Marine General Store until Dec. 13 and is specializing in “Intentional Portraits”.


“I’ve seen estimates that almost four billion pictures are taken every day, but how many of those will we have, let alone cherish, 50 years from now?” says local Marine photographer Evan Johnson. Hoping to capture the essence of portrait photography, Johnson is holding a “pop-up” studio in the Judd Street Exchange owned by Mary Jo Van Dell above the Marine General Store until the middle of December.

Johnson grew up in Minneapolis but has lived in Marine for the last 15 years. He taught film and video production earlier in his life but admits that photography is something that has always called to him.

“The thing that’s always kind of captured me is photography,” he says. “If you think about film, it’s 30 frames per second — audio and picture — but as I’ve gotten older, I’ve loved the idea of splitting that apart into just the visual and just one image.”

There is artistry to stripping down video to capture one single moment that Johnson is trying to convey in his current “pop-up” studio in Marine. His focus in this project is portrait photography. What may seem like standard picture-taking tells much more of a story, according to Johnson.

“We wanted to create a space where we could create what I call ‘intentional portraits.’” He said, “For me, the philosophy is that we live in this world where most people’s pictures are like this,” taking out his phone and holding it out in front of him, “so the intentional part is to make something together. The other part of it is to make something that is an archival product that will be here and cherished in 50 years.”

“Having a camera with you at all times is fantastic,” Johnson continued, looking at some of the recent portraits he had taken. “But I think that a photograph is something that you make, instead of something that you take.” 

Making print photography means something special to Johnson. To make an “archival picture” means creating something that can last for decades or more, and to make something that is valued by the owner. For portrait photography, that means creating something organic and that means shying away from saying, “Cheese!”

“I don’t start with a smile, because I think, for a lot of us, it’s difficult to do it organically,” says Johnson. “When we think about portrait photography, we think about the classic, ‘one, two, three and smile,’ and we’re done. I can’t do that. I don’t think you get anything authentic that way.”

To focus on capturing real moments, Johnson has the client sit in front of the camera for roughly 20 to 30 minutes. In this way, he can have conversations and work through to find the authenticity he is searching for. “Across the session, there are multiple things where different parts of the personality sort of bubble up,” he says. “It’s all about exploring together and seeing what we can come up with. Everybody is looking for something different when they come in.”

A session with Johnson starts with a complimentary consultation to figure out what exactly someone is looking for and what certain comfort levels are. Then, a scheduling of a session takes place with plenty of time behind the camera followed by working through some of the favorite shots that were taken that could be printed. All of this is with the intention of making something that will be treasured for years to come. 

For more information, and to see more of Johnson’s work, visit ellidaphoto.com

Matt Anderson is the editor of the Country Messenger and can be reached at editor@countrymessenger.com


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