Olivia Johnston is an artist based in Ottawa, Canada; she is the Photographic History Instructor at the School of the Photographic Arts: Ottawa. She was shortlisted for the inaugural New Generation Photography Award in 2018, and was a finalist for the RBC Emerging Artist Award in 2017 and 2019. Her work in lens-based media includes photographic and multimedia work; Johnston makes use of numerous genres, including studio portraiture, self-portraiture, landscape, and still life, to explore and question gender, the body, beauty, vulnerability, memory, art history, and the photographic image itself.
Her work has been displayed nationally, including in the CONTACT Photography Festival in Toronto as part of a two-person Featured Exhibition; within the Ottawa Art Gallery; and as a part of the City of Ottawa’s collection. She has also shown her work internationally, in New York, NY; Portland, OR; Saint-Louis, Senegal; and London, England. Her work has appeared in numerous publications and books, and is held in national and international private and public collections.
“Some time ago I found some 35mm negatives in my collection that I didn’t recognize when I held them up to the light. I thought perhaps I had somehow acquired negatives belonging to a stranger, and scanned them to get a sense of what they were. When I opened the file I was stunned, like coming across something made of magic, something profound. The photographs depict a trip I took with my father and my brother when I was a child; almost all of them were taken by me. I have no memory of the day or days these images depict.
In these photographs, I recognize the embryo of my artistic self; this recognition is staggering. I am overwhelmed to have this connection to my childhood self. These photographs prove I was there, that I thought and felt and saw and reacted to the world, even though I don’t remember.”