Johanna Lees has an startling eye for simple beauty. A London-based photographer that is predominantly concerned with portraiture, she’s perfected the notion of effortlessness. Her sitters often have a ballerina-esque loveliness to them; they are natural beauties, pale and innocent looking, with barely a hint of makeup or fuss. It is because of this graceful and simple composition, not despite of it, that her images are heartbreakingly exquisite.
But don’t make the mistake of thinking her images are reduced to mere aesthetic pleasure. The arrangement and minimalism of the photography allows the expressions and gestures of the subjects to speak for themselves. Silently of course, but profound nonetheless. The body language and pure emotion etches itself deeply through the camera lens, to the point where they elude a powerful quietness and in turn become wonderfully timeless. Her images are conceptually and technically brilliant too. It’s a combination that is rare in the field, and she does well to maintain the balance.
Johanna’s portraits are taken of both friends and models, though sometimes she’ll ask someone with an amazing look to sit for her if she spots them by chance. Her greatest talent as a photographer is manipulating her subjects, whether she knows them personally or not, and in the most subtle of ways. She is skilled at tuning her subjects into the perfect portraiture.
She doesn’t just shoot portraits either, as her work also diversifies into more reportage premises and streetscapes. She’s far from being a one trick pony, and her style translates seamlessly into other focuses, while still maintaining that same unforced and naturally beautiful composition.
We spoke to Johanna about long lost film, her fascination with people and what she’s working on next.