For The Pro's

Print The Love Benefit | Artist Talk with Eliesa Johnson


I'm super excited to be the keynote speaker for Print The Love's 2018 benefit. If you're not familiar with the organization, I'd love to introduce you. Print The Love is a non profit that serves the world with instant photographs. They focus on celebrating the value and dignity of individuals in under-resourced communities through the gift of a photograph. Obviously, the mission of this organization resonates with me, because it is what I practice on a daily basis. I greatly believe that a photograph captures a valuable moment in time. I also believe that photographs are one of our most prized possessions that we have in life. Print the Love gives the gift of photography and moments to those who otherwise would not have access to ever having their lives documented - how cool is that?

In thinking about what to talk about for this evening, I landed on "The Power and Purpose of an Image". It will be a reflection upon creating images that have moment and the impact they can have on a community. This will be a great talk for artists who are professional photographers, as well as those who are hobbyists. All are welcome and I hope everyone can walk away a little inspired. 

Proceeds from the evening will go towards Print the Love's work around the world as their team heads to Cambodia on November 1st! I look forward to seeing y'all there! 

Year Twelve

I’m hungry for knowledge. The whole thing is to learn every day, to get brighter and brighter. That’s what this world is about. You look at someone like Gandhi, and he glowed. Martin Luther King glowed. Muhammad Ali glowed. I think that’s from being bright all the time, and trying to be brighter.
— Jay Z

September marked my twelfth year of business and in many ways I feel like all of our companies are hitting their strides. It's been a great year. I also will always refer to my brands as 'ours', because my team and our clients have everything to do with our success. It's not just mine - it is all of ours. 

I was lucky enough to be photographed by Nate Ryan a few weeks ago and I was reflecting a bit on who I am now and where I strive to be. Nate's work is some of the best and he's also a person who has just about as many shoots as I do per week. His hustle is real and it has been exciting to watch his work grow over the years. He's refining it, he's perfecting it and he's making it happen - and it's so good. That consistency and discipline is key to being an artist and a freelancer. Back to my point - it has been a while since I updated my pictures and I wanted to be able to look back at these and remember who I was during this time. I didn't want them to be a quick Instagram photo - I wanted an official portrait. I wanted something strong and powerful, with a true sense of self, because that is what I feel at year twelve.  

  Photo by Nate Ryan

Photo by Nate Ryan

In many ways I still think of myself as a girl with her camera. But I am also a woman who is 5 brands strong, who works with the best team of dedicated people, who can look around the city and celebrate the success of other artists who have passed through our studio doors and ultimately work to create progressive and consistently strong work for their clients. 

Right there, that word create is the magic I am talking about. It's my goal to make a well established body of work that is iconic. It means gathering inspiration from the world, but not directly copying work that has already been done. It means pushing the boundaries and being brave enough to believe in our ideas. It means collaborating with the best and always learning from my team. It means listening. It means doing what I believe in and also not giving a fuck about the bullshit. 

A friend recently borrowed me a book about a photographer named Edward Curtis. He became popular in the 1900's for his work documenting American Indians. While reading the pages, there is so much I can relate to, but this is one of my favorite lines:

I want to make them (American Indians) live forever. It’s such a big dream I can’t see it all.
— Edward Curtis

Looking to the future of what is next in life and businesses, there is so much more to come. I can't wait to see what that holds. 




Well, this is really so very fun! It's been a solid four to five years since I last entered a professional photo competition, but a couple of months ago a great friend of mine sent me an e-mail with a link to PDN's TASTE Food Photography Awards competition. It was one of those days where you had *just* enough time to whip together a submission and I sent off my photos - if anything, just happy to have them in front of the amazing judge's panel (which was filled with a load of talent).

To be honest though, when it comes to submitting for anything - to be published, for competition, etc. I am of the mindset that I 'submit and forget'. There's too much going on here to dwell on if we are going to win or not and I always want to stay focused on the clients and projects at hand. 

However, when you get news that you WON! that is something to be excited about, take a moment and celebrate! I am happy to say that we are one of four winners in the Professional Editorial category, with a series of images that were created for the July 2015 issue of Food & Wine Magazine, featuring Jim Christiansen of Heyday and his award as Best New Chef! Liz Gardner did the styling on this shoot and it just turned out to be a magical set of images that I couldn't be more pleased about. 

PDN is a global leader in the photography industry and to be a part of this roster is a HUGE honor. I'm just happy that this opportunity came across and that we actually took the time to submit. It's a great reminder that sharing your work and taking a risk is most definitely worth it! 

Check out all of the winners here! 


Portraits // The People of Amalfi

In every bio you will ever read about me, it will always start by saying, "My name is Eliesa and I'm a photographer." This is a simple statement, yet a strong one. I don't go on by saying, " I am an editorial, commercial, wedding and yadda...yadda...yadda...photographer." Of course, people eventually ask me what I specialize in and I will elaborate then, but to me, this whole thing I do simply comes down to being a photographer. I take pictures.

My favorite subject? People.

No matter what project or job I'm working on, it always revolves around people and ultimately, taking a portrait of them. Whether it's for an ad campaign or a small feature on a restaurant, designer or even a fashion spread - I always approach it with the mindset of documenting the subject. Some of the 'greats' in the photography world have done the same. Take a look at Avedon, Leibovitz, Cartier-Bresson; all of their work begins with portraiture and can be translated for editorial and commercial purposes. Even modern-day-greats, such as Terry Richardson, Ellen Von Unwerth and Mario Testino have the same patterns.

I had a bit of an eye-opening-experience this past fall. While in New York showing my portfolio, I had 32 meetings scheduled with many of my 'dream' clients. I had narrowed down my work and brought with me two portfolios; one focused on fashion and the other on portraits. As I began showing the books, the response was, " So, do you want to shoot fashion or portraits? What do you want to be? Do you want to be a fashion photographer in New York City, like every other person walking in this room? You know, your portraits are nice, but you're confusing me, what do you want to be?" After about 3 meetings going this way, I went back to my condo, took apart both of my books and laid out all of my prints on the floor. For about 15 minutes, I had an identity crisis as to 'Who I Was' as a photographer, and I realized a couple of things.

I didn't want to be just another 'fashion photographer', I wanted to be Eliesa and known for my work and my style and I wanted people to book me based on who I was as my own artist. I didn't want to pretend to be this 'glamorous new york fashion photographer' who would be booked, because I could be general enough to get-the-job-done. So, I decided to totally scrap my fashion portfolio and only show my portrait work. (Side note; I had also brought along my ipad with a bunch of personal work, which were also environmental portraits, mostly shot with film and of my travels.)

The response to my work, once I just showed my portrait work, was a 180 degree turn around. Absolutely amazing. I was able to sell myself better, because I had stories to tell about these people. I also realized this is where most of my paid work was coming from, so they were legitimate jobs, and not just test shoots. I caught myself being incredibly passionate about these images and the body of work as a whole and in these moments, it was very clear in the direction I wanted to go and who I wanted to be as a photographer. I almost died when the art director of Vanity Fair compared my black and white images to "An early Avedon"....DIE. So, now, I'm making a bit of a shift in my work and approaching everything more intentionally from the environmental portraiture standpoint. Does this mean I'm going to stop shooting fashion or food? Absolutely not, but it's my approach to the work and the body of work to come, as a whole that is going to be on more of a direct path.

I've been on the road for the past couple of weeks, taking a bit of an inspiration-vacation. It's been really great to just take a step back from work and wander the streets of a new world with my camera. My mission was to simply document this time, place and people...wherever my journeys would take me and whatever that meant for my subjects. For me this trip was simple; to eat, drink and document. Here are a few environmental portraits I took while walking the streets of Amalfi, Italy.

Behind The Scenes // Anne Kristine Lingerie Shoot


Yesterday, we blogged all about the launch of Anne Kristine Lingerie, in which I photographed the entire look book + editorial campaign for!

I've been wanting to blog about these for SO long, but the wait was well worth it! Here are some behind-the-scenes images from our day of shooting! As a photographer, I'm always keeping my eyes open for great, new indoor locations for future shoots. A few months back, I stopped by the Hackwith Design House to pick up some garments for the TRIBE shoot and I fell in love with their space! They were oh-so-gracious for letting us, literally, take over their home on the day of our shoot, which was absolutely the perfect location and style for this line!

I love that we never know what kind of doors will open every where we turn!




Here are some of my favorite images from the shoot!




Eliesa Johnson Photography // Intern Search!


Calling all super-cool-people-in-the-world!

We are looking to bring on an intern for a special project we are working on! I know I receive a lot of e-mails during the school year from students that need an internship, so hopefully we will find our perfect person!

We are looking for someone who:

Is outgoing

Super Fun

Phone Savvy

Super professional


Has a little bit of determination in them

Well Spoken

Business Minded

**Note** This position requires no photography skill, in fact, our intern won't be taking part in any shoots, for this current project, but will be working out of our studio.

Please send all applications to:







Women as Photographer: Documenting Life as a Woman // Exhibition!!!

So, I have some super sweet news! I'm super happy to announce that one of my photographs will be a part of an amazing exhibition, called Women as Photographer, here in Minneapolis! The show is all about women photographers, documenting women! This was an International call, so photographers from all over the world were able to submit! I'm excited to be one of the women chosen - we are from 14 countries and 25 US States, which, I personally think is super cool!

The image of mine that was chosen is very near and dear to my heart! I took the photograph with my Holga camera, in Bend, Oregon, during my annual 'girls trip' with my Marfa Ladies. All of these women are absolutely incredible and our trips are meant to be a true relaxing adventure for us all! Our group of ladies are from all around the country, so these trips are one of the only times during the year that we really get to hang out with each other in person! I absolutely love this image, because it was late at night and we were ALL piled up on a bed, just talking about nothing. It was a moment when we truly all let our hair down. It was warm and cozy and everything you imagine when you think of a slumber party - complete with the girl talk! All of us women who go on these trips are strong, successful, inspiring, amazing individuals, so they fact that THIS image got chosen for this exhibition means quite a bit!

The show will be up March 11th - April 17th at the Minneapolis Photo Center, make sure to stop by and check it out!

The organization has also published a book of all the work in the exhibition (which I have previewed and it is AWESOME!)! This exhibit book is a 9”x9”, 123 page bound book, skillfully printed on 100 lb Chorus Art Silk paper, with each photographer featured on their own page, and retail for $39.95. If you would like to purchase a book, please e-mail me at //!