LATELY I’VE BEEN INSPIRED TO HUNT DOWN THE PEOPLE I’VE BEEN WATCHING KILLING IT ONLINE, IN ORDER TO BRING FOCUS TO SOME OF THE TALENT IN THIS CITY THAT MIGHT NOT BE ON EVERYONE’S RADAR. IT’S BEEN TOUGH GOING FOLLOWING @BEAUTYONFILM ON INSTAGRAM, WHAT WITH ALL THE AMAZINGLY GORGEOUS WOMEN IN SWIMSUITS, BUT I GUESS SOMEONE HAS TO DO IT.
I caught up with Johanna of Beauty On Film one morning at the Edwards for coffee and a chat, so she could explain exactly what it is that she does. I was certainly inspired, and I hope you are too.
If you met someone at a party, how would you describe yourself?
If I was at a party it would probably be that I didn’t belong there [laughs]. I’m really funny – I don’t go out a lot, but I definitely like to socialise with friends. Anyway, I’m actually just a stay-at-home mum. I’ve got two girls and I do photography as my passion.
How old are they?
I’ve got a six-year-old, almost seven, and my youngest is a year and a half. So yeah, it keeps me really busy. I’ve wanted to be the happiest version of myself, and so doing something that I’m really passionate about is really important to being that person.
So have you always been a photographer?
No. I worked in admin for 12 years and I’ve found that’s been really helpful with communication with my brand, I guess. I was a makeup artist for several years and that’s what led me to photography.
So watching other people do it and thinking, ‘That looks like fun’?
I was always doing wedding makeup. I was really working hard on a wedding business doing hair and makeup, then I got asked to do some shoots about three years ago and I became really passionate about it. So I was doing makeup behind the scenes, and I’d take photos on my mobile phone and I was really fascinated watching people transform in light, so I just started playing around with it. It’s just grown from there.
Once you looked behind the camera, did you feel like you already had your own creative eye?
It has definitely been very experimental. I’ve grown up really being fascinated by nature and obsessed with the sky and light, kind of seeing things a little bit differently to other people. Tying that natural interest in light and nature in with photography has really helped. I’d always liked taking photos of landscapes and just really random things, not really people.
We’ve been following your Instagram profile @beautyonfilm for a while now. For people who haven’t discovered you (until now), how would you describe your approach? What is the guiding framework?
I guess my business is pretty much an online business. I work with a lot of online brands, creating end-to-end campaigns. So I’ll get a scope of their vision of what they want and then I’ll tie it all together. I’ll bring the makeup artist in and I’ll do all the creative direction and stuff, the finished product for the brand. Describing what I do… I do more swimwear type photography, a bit of other fashion photography.
The name ‘Beauty on Film’ came from the makeup side, beauty. You can’t really say ‘Beauty on Digital’, so ‘Beauty on Film’ came about. I’ve had film photographers say to me, ‘But you don’t shoot on film – why are you using that?’ and I’ve said, ‘Does Beauty on Digital sound good?’ to kind of soften the blow.
It’s been really quick – I only bought my first camera last year. The year before, when I was trialling it and practising, I was borrowing cameras from friends, and last February I bought my first camera.
What have you got?
I’ve got a Canon 6D, but I actually bought a 700D to start. It only took a couple of months for it to be not sufficient enough.
I have no concept of how all this works, but you say there are projects where a brand hires you and wants this or that – but is there also a lot of you just creating because you want to, and thus finding models?
Yeah, I’ve done a lot of creative collaboration. I don’t have a lot of time for it now – I’m just getting too busy with campaigns and stuff that I’m doing, so I have to pick the collaborations that I want to do. I’ve done a lot with Newcastle creatives, different makeup artists, different models; new models to the industry, working to help mentor them as well. Finding the right pathways for them to develop their career, rather than a lot of sidesteps. That’s taught me a lot about the industry myself.
I have done a lot of collaborations – one recently was the glitter shoot I did. It was at the Stockton sand dunes; there was a spur of the moment decision by the makeup artist to put glitter on the models, and it was insane because the photo went viral with millions of reposts and views of that photo. Both of them were new models, local girls in Newcastle.
Do models come to you or do you find them?
I approach people more. I do get a lot approaching me, but I have to pick and choose, I guess. I do want to do more collaboration. I guess you have to be selective because you’re building your brand and your career, the same as the model. When you’re working for a brand, they usually want to have a say in the model as well. So I have to put a few faces forward to them and they can choose as well, but with the Newcastle models I’ve worked with, I’ve chosen them every time. Interstate models that I’ve had approach me, sometimes I’ll work with them, or I’ve had a few different models fly in to Newcastle to do collaborative shoots as well.
Does it help having a great location?
It’s kind of getting a bit tough for me here, because I’m running out of things to do. I’ve got my favourite spots – it’s not that the beauty is lost in the spot; you just start getting a little bored shooting in the same location, especially since coming back from Bali, where everywhere you turn there’s somewhere fresh, new, exciting to shoot.
You have an immense Instagram following. Do you have any tips for budding young Instagrammers?
I think there is always a bit of strategy involved when it comes to posting – certain times of day [etc.]. The business insights that have just come in have helped a little bit in terms of what time of day and which day of the week [to post]. Evenings seem to be the best time to post. The biggest thing was to just be true to yourself.
Originally I’d get really caught up and delete posts, but then you’re losing faith in yourself. What you write [is important] as well – I just try and keep it a little less personal. My formula is that what I say and what is captured is quite similar, quite simple. Don’t post too often, don’t post too little, keep an eye on your feed, make sure everything flows.
Favourite local locations?
I’m sure there are heaps. I am obsessed with the Stockton sand dunes – I could build a little home there and shoot there permanently. There are so many beautiful spots up near Shoal Bay – that would be my favourite; the water is so blue. You could think you were in the south of Italy. I spend a lot of time at Redhead Beach. I’ve got a lot of funny dog photos there.
I think travelling more is definitely on the agenda. I have a shoot in a few months in the Philippines; I’m looking to relocate to Bali for a couple of months – I’ve had a few opportunities come up there. Which is a bit of a scary step. Long-term, it’s probably to continue to build my brand, to work with other brands.
Favourite places in Newcastle to go? If someone came to visit, where would you take them?
Where would I take them? Hmmm, definitely the Stockton sand dunes. Every time I’ve had people visit we’ve always had lunch at the Bay somewhere, Nelson Bay – I do like it there, although I probably wouldn’t like to live there; bit far away. The vineyards, definitely… Pick up some produce from the farmers’ markets and I’d cook something at home.
Who else in Newcastle should we discover?
There’s a lot of emerging and current talent here in Newcastle. One of my favourite photographers is Keegan Cronin – he moved here from Forster a few years ago. Great at capturing motion. Another is Eamon Waddington.
Make sure you check out @beautyonfilm on both Instagram and Facebook. While you’re at it, have a look at the profiles she suggested.
@beautyonfilm’s suggestions: Top Instagram profiles to follow!