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Meet Victoria Johnson

Today we’d like to introduce you to Victoria Johnson.

Hi Victoria, thanks for joining us today. We’d love for you to start by introducing yourself.
I’ve always been passionate about making things. From a very young age, I remember going to museums and galleries with my parents and being enrolled in extracurricular activities that involved art. Making art was always a hobby within my family and I never thought much of it. Photography especially was always something that was going on. I was fortunate enough to travel a lot with my parents and friends and would always take pictures of everything. After many years of using the family’s digital camera to photograph my life, my parents gave me my very own digital camera, which I carried around with me everywhere.

I came to the United States after graduating high school in Brazil because I could have more freedom to explore different majors before I had to choose a “career path”. Although I grew up making art, I fell into the capitalist trap of not seeing art as a suitable profession because it wouldn’t provide for me financially in the same ways other professions would, therefore, I never really gave it much thought, pursuing art in higher education never really seemed like an option. Once I took a few art classes and seminars and college and realized how fulfilling those were, I decided to dive head-first into a BFA. I had a lot of great art professors but my photography professors really inspired and helped me see how much potential I had.

I found several photographers that inspire me and make me want to push myself to create art that can ask and answer questions I have about the world.

Can you talk to us a bit about the challenges and lessons you’ve learned along the way. Looking back would you say it’s been easy or smooth in retrospect?
I think it’s never smooth when it comes to making art. Like most mediums, photography has always been a very white male-dominated field. When I started taking art classes at USU, my art professors (3D design, drawing, painting, ceramics, etc) were mostly male- certainly all white. Same with my classmates, Utah State is a very white campus and the art building isn’t much different. When you’re surrounded by people that look different than you, it’s easy to be hyper-aware that you do not look like them.

I think that played a part in some impostor syndrome I feel at times. I struggle with depression and anxiety and as much as the “troubled artist trope” is a common theme in the art world, it’s hard to convince yourself that your work is good enough to compare with others when there are very few other people of color around to validate you. There’s also a weird dynamic I push myself into where I feel like I need to be the absolute best I can be (which is not technically an issue) because I have something to prove.

Can you tell our readers more about what you do and what you think sets you apart from others?
I’m a photographer that does mostly documentary projects. Right now, I am really into the New Topographics movement. Similar to how Lewis Baltz documented the construction of suburbs on the west coast, and how Steven Smith documents natural and man-made landscapes in Utah, I am fascinated by the development of new residential spaces around me. Utah is an amazing place to document that, there’s so much construction happening everywhere to accommodate expanding families. Not only is the building process so quick, but most houses don’t stay on the market for very long. Growing up in Brazil I’ve always glamourized suburbia. White picket fence, green grass, double door refrigerator, and all of that. Once I moved here I was surprised by how popular it is to dislike the mass-production architectural style of homes around here. Brazil has similar areas where homes are built to look very similar to one another, but you don’t really hear people’s disgust for it. It seems like “cookie-cutter” isn’t that much of an issue when people are just happy to own something.

Right now I’m most known for my project called “the lives we bought”. A visual exploration of the ongoing real estate development around me. The project documents homes that would be considered beautiful and elegant everywhere else but the U.S, and the construction around them.

I’m really proud of my commitment to building a series. The project I mentioned was finalized with 20 images, but I probably took around 500 in total. I drove all over Utah looking for areas that captured exactly the story I wanted to tell. I framed every shot about a million times, just so I could have one where the irony was papable. My background and my interests are what set me apart. Not only am I a queer person of color in Utah, but I also am not from here, I grew up being pushed to express myself in whichever ways I could and now I have such an easier time allowing myself to explore ideas and mediums without judgment.

What are your plans for the future?
I plan to get my last project into some more local shows. I have one coming in September and I’m excited to hopefully make some local connections that would allow me to exhibit my work here in Cache Valley.

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Victoria Johnson

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