Johanna Stickland

Tell us about yourself.
My name is Johanna, but most people call me Hanna. I am 20 years old and I grew up in Calgary, Alberta. It is a fairly conservative place, both my parents are artists, my father being a playwright and my mother an actress. I began modelling at the age of 14 and that experience really broadened my interest in photography and the arts. I have been travelling and taking pictures for a few years now, and I live in Portugal at the moment.

What is beauty to you and how do you define beauty?
To me, beauty is found in low and heavy music, certain books, the light in winter, I could go on and on. I don’t think beauty can be clearly defined, as it’s totally subjective. I see it in sadness and in chaos, and I’m interested in the fragility and strength in people and find those qualities beautiful when they coincide.

What is the story behind your first camera?
I bought a used Canon AE-1 almost 3 years ago, at B&H in New York. I still use it all the time.

Digital or film? Why?
I really fell in love with the process of shooting film. I love the mystery, suspense, and mistakes, etc. I like how it forces you to be more mindful with each frame. I’m a big fan of the happy accidents that occur. However, I see the inevitable shift into digital already occurring, and I am trying to embrace it and educate myself on it as best as possible so that I can fully understand and utilize both.

Do you intend to pursue photography as your primary career? What did you study in school?
This fall I was accepted to school for photography but I decided to move to New York last minute instead. I definitely want to focus on photography, at the same time I have many interests and want to explore them all and see where I can go with them.

What role does color play in your photographs?
Experimenting with colors is fun, I love playing around with darker blue tones. In the summer when  I was really broke, I bought expired film which gave everything a red tint, which bothered me at first but now I’ve decided I really like how they came out. Shooting color is challenging, but there is so much to explore and I enjoy it a lot.

When conceptualizing a shoot, what is your creative process like? How do you go about photoshoots?
If there is a team involved, I try to be somewhat organized. I gather inspiration/references, and share it with the stylist and makeup artist so we are on the same page. If it is just me shooting another person, I usually don’t plan much and just see what will come of it. Usually, it doesn’t matter how much you arrange anyways, the best photos will come as a surprise at the end of the day. I often find myself revisiting discarded photos and then finding something interesting about them after some time has passed.

Over the summer, you shot an editorial for REVS Magazine. What was that experience like?
Shooting for REVS was great. It is a really aesthetically pleasing magazine and I felt really happy to shoot for it. The stylist and makeup artist were both friends of mine and the model was really wonderful and inspiring.

How would you describe your photographic style?
This is tough. I don’t know if I can answer this question adequately, I just take pictures of things, people, scenarios I find pleasing to my eyes

As a photographer, do you believe the human body is most beautiful clothed or bare?
Both. I think the female form is beautiful and I really enjoy shooting it. This idea has been on my mind a lot in the last while, having posed nude quite often myself. I’ve worked with many photographers in the last months, all of whom are male (I’m not attempting to single them out, it is just a fact of my experience), who usually have a primary job (namely a writer, commercial photographer, creative director), and for their artistic hobby they shoot “art”, which means they shoot beautiful women, naked. Some do it spectacularly, and I feel lucky to have met such photographers. My experience has really changed my views on nudity and art and the purpose of nudity in photographs. Even when I see images now, I can’t help but notice when the nudity has no purpose versus when it actually makes sense being part of an image.

Who and what inspire you?
The work of Aneta Bartos, Monika Bielskyte, Jeff Cowen, Estelle Hanania, Christophe Brunnquell, Camille Vivier, Erica Shires, Wing Shya, Mark Peckmezian. The book Exquisite Pain by Sophie Calle. Francis Bacon, Liz Buckingham, Yohji Yamamoto, Leonard Cohen, Werner Herzog, Matt Pike. Kind of a mixed bag there, but the list is endless. My boyfriend is a musician and he introduces me to so much awesome stuff and inspires me greatly.

What magazines do you enjoy?
Dossier, i-D, Numero, The Paris Review, Lapham’s Quarterly, Another Magazine. SOME/THINGS is curated beautifully.

You used to grapple with modelling years back. How did you get started and why did you decide to enter the industry?
It was less of a decision and more of a whirlwind, everything happened pretty fast. I was always extremely tall for my age but I never had the intention or desire to model.  When I was 14, I was approached in a drugstore by an agent who handed me a card. A few months later, I was in Paris doing the shows. Thinking of it now, it seems like a surreal dream, a different life. I’m happy that I did it for the time being, as it allowed me to meet so many amazing individuals and opened so many doors.

What songs are on your personal playlist?
Huge / Boris
The Mechanical Bride / Melvins
Return Trip / Electric Wizard
Let it Go / The Black Ryder
Paris, Texas /  Ry Cooder

What are three things most people don’t know about you?
Everything, I am pretty shy and don’t expose myself too much. I bake really well!

For more of Johanna’s work, check out her website.