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. 


ELIESA JOHNSON // New Brand Identity!


Brand identity work by Dschwen

I am super excited to share the new identities of all of our companies! This is our eleventh year of business and as our work and businesses grow and become more refined, so do our brands. Last year, we took on the big project of updating all of our websites and this year brought along the next phase of that project, which was to unify all of the brands. We worked with the brilliant mind of David Schwen of Dschwen to bring this all together and I am SO happy with how it turned out! Each company still has it's own individual presence, while still feeling cohesive with all we do here in the studio. 

The new logo for ELIESA JOHNSON was inspired by how I sign my prints. The old logo was my full signature, but how I really sign my work is simply with an 'e'. I love the simplicity of the logo and can't wait to roll our more design elements and portfolio books with this! You'll also notice that we have new fonts, which are easier to read on the site! 

You can check out all of our other brands at the sites below:

From Winter to Spring // Test Shoot!

I am SUPER excited to share these images from my latest test shoot with you! We are in this weird limbo phase in Minneapolis right now, where winter has not yet come to and end and spring has almost begun! I wanted to somehow convey that feeling - and if you live in Minnesota, you know what that feeling is - where you are just dying for things to change and brighten up! I wanted these images to be light and bright, pale, yet with some neutral color being introduced as the images went on. I wanted them to be soft, yet with a little bit of tension. I couldn't be more pleased with the way these turned out and I am super pumped to use them in my portfolio!

As always, I could not pull these shoots off, without an amazing team behind me!


Photography: Eliesa Johnson

Hair & Makeup: Fatima Olive

Styling: Diana Colangelo

Talent: Gemma & Melissa, Ignite Models

Post Production: Liz Hardt


Free People Lace Dress // $98 // Nordstrom,  Scarf  // $28 // Urban Outfitters

BCBG Sheer Sleeve Dress // $78 // Bloomingdales,  Crochet Shawl // $39 // Urban Outfitters

Haute Blouse // $225 // Nordstrom,  Underwear // $16 // Urban Outfitters

Chiffon Maxi Skirt // $54 // Lace Bra // $16 // Urban Outfitters,  BCBGeneration Cutout Top // $88 // Bloomingdales

French Connection Crochet Dress // $288 // Bloomingdales,  French Connection Glitter Dress // $168 // Bloomingdales



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 //!


The Leave Behinds are Here!

Wooo Hoooo!

I'm super pumped that our first round of leave-behinds have arrived!! We are currently stuffing the envelopes, printing out our address labels - this production is in full swing!

For those of you who do not know, a leave behind is a little sample of our work that is sent out to potential clients, usually in postcard form. It's best to keep these as simple possible, so when they arrive in the mail, my potential-client can clearly understand who I am, what my style is like and (hopefully) keep the card around for future hire!

A couple of tips to keep in mind, when designing a Leave Behind:

1) Keep it Simple - don't waste anyone's time by being too gimmick-y

2) Think about your mailing presentation - We will be sending all of our cards out in clear mailers, so people simply have to look at them. And I'm not going to lie, they look killer in their envelope.

3) Brand yourself accordingly - It's super important for my future clients to get to know ME, just as much as my work. Therefore, all of our cards will have my face on them, as well as the work!

We're about to begin pounding the pavement over here and I feel like SO much of our work this last year has been gearing up for this moment! I'm so excited to get my work in front of new people and get feedback...the good and the bad! This is one exciting journey!

Behind The Scenes // Winter Fashion Test Shoot

Woo Hoo!!! We just wrapped up THE most inspiring test shoot!

It was honestly, one of the simplest shoots I have ever put together. It all began when Ignite, which is an amazing agency in town, sent me over a photo of a new guy they had just signed on. This model had no experience - which is honestly some of my most favorite subjects to work with. Simply, because they have no idea what they are doing yet and they also don't have a pre-conceived-notion of what a model is 'suppose' to do. This particular model had the most amazing freckles, and I dreamed up this winter fashion spread all around his look!

Erick, once again, worked his magic on the styling and my current FAVORITE store for menswear, Black Blue lent us all of our amazing looks!!

The photographs were shot with all film cameras. We used both a 35mm camera - the Canon FT-QL and a Medium Format 500C Hasselblad (which, for the record, is like a little slice of heaven to look through that viewfinder!)

Our film was: Velvia 100F Fujichrome and Fuji Pro 400H

The best part about this shoot for me, and probably the reason it was so inspiring was just how simple it was! We didn't need to worry about downloading cards or even looking at the camera! It was just me, a window full of natural light, one model and an amazing camera! That, my friends, is what it is all about!