With the fast-rising fashion photographer picked out for BJP's Ones to Watch issue, we're posting an article we published on his striking fashion story back in May 2016
The protagonists of Tom Johnson’s fashion story, The Evans Girls, are not your typical models. The sisters, Kyra and Evie, are eight and six years old, and live in Merthyr Tydfil in the Welsh valleys.
Johnson met them while working with stylist Charlotte James in her hometown, staying with her grandparents and shooting her friends and family. Together, Johnson and James created Merthyr Rising, a personal project celebrating the strong characters and vibrant community of the ex-mining town, challenging the image of socioeconomic hardship that has shaped its reputation since the pits closed in the 1980s.
Kyra and Evie are the daughters of one of James’s school friends and, on meeting them, Johnson was immediately struck by their close relationship. He decided to revisit them for a fashion shoot, pitching the project to the biannual Pylot magazine. “They were really special to photograph; they have a sisterly bond which I’ve never seen the likes of before,” says Johnson. “They like to play fight, finish each others’ sentences; their manner and humour is beyond their years.”
It’s an unusual story but it fits both Pylot and Johnson – the former specialising in analogue, unretouched work, and the latter in shooting strangers for both fashion and documentary. “I love photographing people who I can connect with on a personal level and are true characters,” says Johnson. “Whether I’m shooting someone I meet in the pub or Zinedine Zidane, it’s their character that appeals to me.”
Johnson cites British realist cinema as an influence, and his stripped-back aesthetic is clear in The Evans Girls, in which the sisters sport carefully chosen outfits offset by wild, dramatic landscapes. Johnson worked with James again in this spin-off from their previous project, and he says her contribution was key.
“You have to share similar sensibilities and really care about how your subjects are portrayed, otherwise you start to lose a vital aspect of the idea,” he comments. “Kyra and Evie have an amazing Pre-Raphaelite look about them – they are young enough to not be self-conscious, and completely unaware of how fantastic they look.”
www.tom-johnson.co.uk Tom Johnson was selected for BJP’s Ones to Watch issue, which is put together via recommendations by an international panel of experts. Click here to read his profile from this issue; to buy the issue, visit our online shop www.thebjpshop.com/product/june-2017/