It wasn't long before artist and photographer, Emily Johnston, and I were lost in conversation in her quaint East Village apartment. I felt like I was catching up with an old friend, perusing through her photography projects with acoustic Sam Smith playing in the background. Emily has these insanely wonderful vibes that instantly made me feel comfortable and before I knew it, we had spent two hours in her living room sitting criss-cross chatting about her past adventures and plans for the future.Emily was born in California but spent a majority of her childhood in Paris roaming around with camera in hand. She attributes part of her natural introspective tendencies to her wandering teenage years and her love affair with Parisian culture and scenery. Emily moved to Chicago for college studying art and English literature, briefly returning to France upon graduation, where she signed with a gallery in Paris. Her search for creative and professional guidance landed her back in Chicago where a studio redesign for her wedding photography business opened the door to shooting interiors. "Crystal Gentilello, the founder of Rue Magazine, found me through Design Sponge [see interview with founder Grace Bonney here] and that was the beginning of a new phase in my career."Emily's time in Chicago was crucial for her personal and career growth but a variety of circumstances eventually led her to New York. "When I first arrived in NYC three years ago, I knew it was the place for me." And though she considers the city home base, traveling has become a recurring theme in her life - and her art."Soon after my move to New York I left to travel for a bit. I ended up shooting all these landscapes - things that just spoke to me. I realized I had created a series of landscapes and found a common thread among them all. Every image featured a different central focal point, symbolizing a search for some sort of sign. It was powerful to realize this series reflected my personal search for meaning. I began collaging on top of these photos, creating a shelter around each center point. I was really creating a new thing around a place of respite.""The first one of the series was really the three marks on the tree because it was a strange unnatural element in a very natural environment. It was an example of how we as people claim our environments whether they are natural or not. We mark a trail for ourselves that affects others along the way and I sort of hope that is what my work does. My work is really about slowing down. We are always so consumed with the next thing and aren't very good at observing the world around us. For instance, who watches a video on Instagram? No one because we are all too busy scrolling. It can be tough because I have to exist in this world that is moving fast but let myself slow down enough to focus. I try to sit for a couple hours in the morning and just think. It's about going through life looking for meaning."Emily was one of my favorite people to interview, mostly because of her insight and transparency. It's not hard to understand that her work involves something greater than just a camera flash. Her introspective character is part of what makes her such a fabulous artist, and I was most curious how NYC has nurtured that part of her personality and ultimately influenced her work."Moving to New York has been interesting because it's not really conducive to introspection. It's fast paced and I'm primarily an introvert, however I love connecting with people. So, if you can pull yourself away from the racing around it's an amazing place to observe life and people. For instance, during my cab ride this morning I put down my phone to watch runners on the west side highway, considering the circumstances of one man in particular. Was he running because he has kids and it was his one time alone? Or, is he always alone and this is just more of being alone?"Emily's observational nature is probably why she has one of my favorite Instagram accounts. Instagram not only gives Emily the freedom to post photos on the go, but she recently created an online print shop, Terra Incognita, of select shots from her account. She captures incredible moments and shares them with her 13K+ following. "When I was younger I took my camera everywhere and was hungry to capture everything I saw. However, as I grew, so did my client list. My photography became a business and along the way my shooting and creative process changed. Instagram opened the door to a whole new creative space.Using my iPhone as a camera, I stopped asking myself if something was worth the time to pauseand shoot. I can set my inhibitions aside and trust my instinct. So much of being an artist is just doing the work and not thinking too much about it."Instagram has given Emily a new creative outlet. Not only does she have the freedom to post photos on the go but her online shop allows these photos to come to life in print form. I even walked away with my own NYC-inspired photo as a souvenir of my lovely afternoon at her place. Before I left we had our own little photo-shoot (Emily snapped the photos of me above with her iPhone) and I gave her a quick Q+A, pinpointing some of her favorite (and least favorite) things about the city:
My favorite nights are...the longest ones.
I'm not a tourist but I still...ask questions.
You'll usually find me...overanalyzing.
If you can afford it...will it matter in a year?
Don't trust...dont ask me this! Im feeling jaded.
Do trust...Your gut.
When it comes to NYC I hate...how we all slam into each other on the sidewalks when were not paying attention.
When it comes to NYC I love...being alone in company.
I'll move out of NYC when...whenever I please.
It's okay to do this alone...sit at a bar.
If I'm going to splurge...Ill never look back.
My favorite phone apps are...Instagram, no hesitation.
My favorite place to spend time is...somewhere very familiar or totally unknown.
This is how I wind down...exercise.
It's important to...ask for help.