Shamus Johnson is a highly regarded and well-respected photographer and has been for many years. His business, aptly named Shamus Photography, operates out of Nipomo, California, a small town well-known for its country views and hiking trails. Shamus has been working in this sector for a long period of time and was even a photographer in the Vietnam War. His passion for photography was strengthened at a young age and it has developed into a career path that has given his life a lot of meaning and fulfilment.
In reflecting on his career and photography skills, Shamus has thankfully answered several of our questions about the nature of his work. Below are some examples of his artwork:
Old Hanoi Night Corner:
Shamus, what was the best piece of advice you ever received about photography?
I think that would have to be from my high school photography teacher, Mr. Radcliffe. Basically, it was to try out as many different types of photography as possible until you found something that truly captivated you. He encouraged me to become a Navy photographer, which he had been himself. I was very lucky to have had such a great mentor at that early, formative age. He truly changed my life.
How do you promote your art?
I don’t do much right now but hope to change that in the next few months. My website is my portal to the world: shamusphotography.com. It’s been up for months but is not yet fully functional. When it is, it will be my main channel. I have a Facebook page: shamus photography. And my Instagram page is also, @shamusphotography. I’ve got that named nailed down, apparently.
Do other aspects of the arts, like painting or sculpting, similarly inspire you?
I enjoy them very much and admire their talent, a talent I don’t have, but I’m not sure they inspire or inform my photography. I’d have to think more about that.
How would you describe an average day for you as a photographer, and how long do you usually spend taking photos?
That really depends on what country I’m in. Here in the US, for example, I will usually pack my car with my Nikon and Canon M50 with tripods and a bag full of filters and accessories. I will also take one or both of my drones, just in case. I don’t plan my outings too much beforehand but rely on stumbling on to situations and opportunities. I know the type of photos I want to capture that day, as in ‘street’ or ‘early morning fog’, but that’s it. I seldom come home empty handed. But, of course, some days are better than others.
I’ve come to find that I am a binge photographer. I will go out for a few days in a row and then stop for a few weeks. My photographs are heavily processed on the computer and require a lot of time, more time than it takes to shoot them. So, I am thinking about photography more often than not. It gives me a great sense of satisfaction, a high really. One that doesn’t have any of the negative aspects of drug or alcohol highs, which I have struggled with in the past.
How important is it for you to have a decent balance between your career and your personal life?
Very important. I was very lucky 30 years ago to find a partner that is a very talented artist in her own right, and I have to admit that was part of the attraction. Our art doesn’t conflict, but serves as a bond between us. She has a very wide artistic eye and applies it to almost everything she does. I am truly fascinated by what she creates.
What are your future plans for your career, and do you hope to make any changes?
I don’t see making any major changes at this point in my career. Over the 50 years that I have been a photographer, I have gone through many changes. I have finally settled into an expression that I am at home with. I hope to be taking photographs until the day before I die. I will never run out of inspiration as long as I’m able to walk this planet. I think the creative drive exists in the ancient part of the brain and is instinctive in nature. I get excited when I see the prehistoric cave paintings in France and understand what drove them to express themselves that way.
I haven’t yet taken that one shot that I would consider my masterpiece and may never do. I think the search for that shot drives me, but if I never achieve it, I hope I will have left behind some near misses. That would be enough.