I have to admit that I'm a bit of an Insta-stalker... I love discovering new things by checking out what people I like have liked. Nicolette Johnson of South West Supply Co. is someone I stumbled across this way + as of this afternoon one of her gorgeous prints will be hanging on my studio wall! Nicolette is about to jet off to the States but very generously squeezed in a little time to answer my questions about what she's up to at South West Supply Co.
Tell us a little bit about your background - how did South West Supply Co. come about?
My father, a geologist who grew up in New Mexico, really tried to nurture a love of the natural world in my siblings + me when we were children. We were relocated to Brisbane for his work when I was finishing high school, but before that I spent my childhood in Texas + New Mexico. We would regularly drive back + forth from one state to the other to visit relatives + during those long road trips my father would often excitedly stop the car next to some nondescript hill or cliff face and explain to us exactly what was going on geologically. What kind of rocks made that hill, how it got there, why the lines in the cliff-face were slanted like that. Of course this was very tedious to us at the time, but as I've gotten older I have started to understand + even adopt his enthusiasm.
My folks eventually moved back to Texas but I decided to stay in Brisbane (university + a new boyfriend heavily influencing that decision). I studied photojournalism for four years at the Queensland College of Art + graduated with Honours (but without said boyfriend) in 2011. Luckily I manage to get back to the States for Christmas every year + each time I am there my love for the Southwest is renewed. My current partner, Tom, has even come with me once + has acquired a similar affection for the place. New Mexico is a hard place, dry + cold in the winter. The tap water tastes like dirt in a good way. There is desert + mountain + forest + field all in one magical little part of the country. Each time I've been back I've made photographs but I never really did anything with the images, until this year when Tom + I moved into a new apartment in the city + needed artwork for the walls. I decided to make big prints of the images I made during my coveted visits to the Southwest so I could surround myself with the places I love.
What has been the biggest challenge you've faced whilst setting up South West Supply Co.?
Photography + interior design are two of my strongest fixations + so making pictures for people to put in their homes is so much fun for me. The most difficult thing I've had to do is put myself out there + make myself vulnerable to failure. I know just about everyone will have had this feeling before, the one that goes: 'Sure, this thing is good enough for me, but is it good enough for other people? I like it, but will others?' It's the self-doubt + questioning of your own judgement that trips you up. Thankfully I have had so much wonderful support + encouragement from my partner, my family + my friends which is what initially spurred me to start up the shop.
If you could pick any location in which to display one of your photographs where would it be?
I would love to have my work installed in a cafe or restaurant as the hero of the space. The images are romantic + inspire escapism + I would love for people to enjoy food + drink + conversation in front of them. Tom, ever the comedian, suggested the Louvre, so I guess that would be nice as well.
What's next for you + for South West Supply Co.?
On the 15th of November I am going back to the U.S. for a long visit, to see my family, to make beautiful pictures + to pick up some enchanting Southwestern treasures to add to my shop. I will be overseas until early January so while I'm off shooting my trusty life partner / housemate / assistant, Tom, will be able to ship items from Brisbane for me.
I've also started to make jewellery inspired by the Southwestern landscape to accompany the prints. The pieces are made from gemstones + minerals (my fascination with the materials no doubt passed down to me by my father) + reflect traditional Native American jewellery. New styles + a look book are on the way!
Finally, which creatives are inspiring you at the moment?
As far as photographers go, Alec South, Todd Hido + Bryan Schutmaat are all big rigs for me. Their images are quiet + moving and speak of places that are so important to me. A few locals that fuel my creativity are Rachel Shurmann who heads Style Revolutionary, Chela Edmunds who makes the gorgeous Takeawei ceramics, The Iron Ladies who fill my every waffle need, commercial photographer Sam Thies who has given me so many wonderful opportunities + social documentary photographer Joe Ruckli who I use as my philosophy / psychology / art / life springboard + is such an inspiration.