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Thursday, March 10, 2011

Featuring Dean Johnson: Photographer from Minneapolis

Dean Johnson is a very talented photographer from Minnesota. He has been published in several magazines, including Playboy and Maxim. Dean knows how to bring out the best in all his models, and simply put-he is AWESOME!

Photo by Dean Johnson, Model: Chauntel Spear

AVIVA: How long have you been involved with photography?
I started back in high school, which was a long time ago, around 1979 is when I bought my first camera. But back then I just shot nature and wildlife, landscapes. Shooting models didn't happen until the early 90's. I wish I had gotten involved with shooting models much earlier, but from high school on, any girlfriend/fiance/wife I had (only married once!) just wasn't too crazy about the idea of me shooting models. So I had to wait until I divorced my wife and then I started to pursue that. It's funny, every relationship that I've had since then has been pretty much the same: women that are not involved in the industry don't seem to understand it very well and are kind of insecure about it. At some point in the relationship, they start showing signs of jealously, and wanting to be there for every shoot, and that's when it ends. I'm still happily single.

AVIVA: Have you always wanted to be a photographer?
Not always, but I always appreciated beauty, whether it was a sunset or a pretty girl. As a child I can remember looking through fashion magazines like Cosmopolitan and just being fascinated with the beautiful models.

AVIVA: What is the most exciting thing about the craft?
It's that moment where everything comes together for that one split second and a beautiful photo results. Working with beautiful women is quite exciting as well.

Photo by Dean Johnson, Make-up: M. Rose

AVIVA: Do you have a favorite subject; if so, what is it?
Beautiful women. Outside of that I really like flowers and sunsets/sunrises. But yes, women are the most beautiful of all creation. And one can't really interact with a flower, and part of what makes shooting models my favorite thing is the interaction. It's especially great when the model and I really click: there's an energy there that we both feed off of and those shoots are the most satisfying and usually result in the best images.

AVIVA: What do you believe has/have been your greatest accomplishment(s) in photography (publications, etc)?
It was a great thrill for me to have gotten published with Playboy, (grapevine, and the cyberclub/ a couple of times). And getting paid for it was the icing on the cake. Aside from that, what has been most meaningful to me is the friendships that have developed. There are several models that I worked with early in their careers and they went on to achieve quite a bit and I am still in contact with them and still consider them friends. That's very satisfying to me.

AVIVA: What advice would you give to aspiring photographers who would like to get published?
They should get a copy of The Photographer's Handbook , by John Hedgecoe.

Photo: Dean Johnson, Model: Shannon Sunderlin, Make-Up: Kate Carroll

AVIVA: If you had to say a few words to aspiring models, what would they be?
They should evaluate what it is they are trying to accomplish and evaluate if their look fits in with that. If a 5 foot 3 inch pretty girl sets her goal to work the runways in NY and Paris: it isn't gonna happen. She may be fine for other things but high fashion isn't for her. So a model needs to take a critical look at herself and figure out what might be her best path. For some, it may just be a hobby they enjoy, a creative outlet, and there's nothing wrong with that. Some of the best models I've worked with have no desire to make it big. One thing I hear quite a bit from new models is that they want to be a Victoria's Secret model, which is a fine goal, but pretty much unattainable to the average pretty girl. They have high standards and unless a girl can match those standards it ain't gonna happen.

Photo: Dean Johnson, Model: Elyse, Make-up: Kate Carroll

AVIVA: Do you have any brief but memorable shoot story that you would like to share?
My first topless shoot, very memorable, and it happened quite by accident. I had already decided that I wasn't going to ask any model to shoot topless or nude until I knew what I was doing and was confident that I could get great results.

Shortly after I decided to start shooting models, I went to one of those shootouts in hopes of getting some good shots for my book. One of the models there had just done a shoot for Playboy and it seemed that every photographer at this event was determined to shoot this girl topless, she was being hounded relentlessly, and declined to shoot topless with anyone. When our turn came to shoot together she asked me what I had in mind and I told her that I wanted to shoot whatever would benefit her the most. She told me it was refreshing to hear that and explained to me how everyone else just seemed to want her to take her clothes off and they lost interest when she said no thanks. I explained that I really had no interest in shooting topless or nudes until I got to the point where I could do it justice. Anyway, we started shooting some head shots and within a few minutes she started unbuttoning her shirt, and pretty soon it was wide open, no bra mind you. She later explained that since I was the only one that showed any interest in shooting something that she needed, she wanted to reward me.
Some of those other photographers saw this and later approached me asking if I paid her or how the hell I got her out of her top, I just said that all I did was show an interest in what she wanted and what might benefit her, rather then hounding her to take her top off.
There's a lesson in there for you guys.

AVIVA: What would you do if you won the lottery?
I'd travel a lot more, and I do mean a lot more. There's so many gorgeous women (to shoot) all over this planet! Oh, and I'd start paying models even when I had no chance of recouping anything from sale of the images. And I'd probably build a house and every room would be designed with photography in mind.

I would like to thank Dean for sharing his insights on photography. Dean recommends that aspiring photographers have a read through The Photographer's Handbook .

You can see more of Dean's work in his Model Mayhem portfolio.
I wish Dean all the best; he would be great to work with!



  1. Fantastic interview. I loved it. He's work is amazing. I love photographing women, because I no so many (myself included) who are insecure in front of the camera. I want to show them how gorgeous they truly are.

    I really enjoyed reading your post.


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