My Best Shot: Party Boat by Sarah Anne Johnson

283 SarahAnneJohnson My Best Shot: Party Boat by Sarah Anne Johnson

Sarah Anne Johnson, Party Boat, 2009, mixed media, courtesy of the artist.

One of my favourite pictures is Party Boat, from a series of work I just finished called Arctic Wonderland. It is a digital c-print that I scratched and painted on with photo-spotting and acrylic inks.

The original photo was taken in 2009 while on an artist’s residency. The residency took place on a two-masted schooner which set sail out of Norway into the Arctic Circle. For twelve days we sailed the sea with daily adventures on shore. The Norwegian arctic shoreline was spectacular. At first glance the landscape seemed so pristine and perfect: rugged mountains, turquoise glaciers and animals uncaged in their element. However on closer inspection human influence could be seen everywhere you looked. For example, one day we saw seven polar bears eating a rotting whale carcass on the shore. I felt so privileged to witness something so exotic and “natural” then I noticed that four of the bears had tracking collars fixed around their necks. This was the moment I realized how fleeting and delicate this environment is. The growing interest in the arctic is the very thing that will destroy it.

When I got home and looked at my pictures I was disappointed. They were just pretty pictures. They did not capture my growing thoughts on the industrialization and manipulation of the arctic. It took about five months of contemplating the images and my experience before I began to understand what was missing and how to deal with it. By adding to the surface with different kinds of paint, I was able to make clear my point of view.

The reason I chose this particular photograph is because it touches on the three points I feel are crucial to making a strong picture. It has a personal point of view, it is a reflexion of our current times, and it is an innovative approach to the medium. This piece expresses some of the personal feelings I felt on the trip which were often in conflict: excitement and awe over-shadowed by impending doom for the planet. Afterwards I could not stop thinking about how industrialized culture celebrates progress and barrels ahead without considering long term impacts. Fireworks as an allegory makes sense to illustrate both these points. Painting on the print, makes a different kind of photograph.

Sarah Anne Johnson/

The concept for the column “My Best Shot” is used with permission from G2:


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