Flint photographer, designers organizing photoshoot to support mental health charity

Joshua Johnson is organizing a photoshoot on August 20 to support mental health charities.FLINT, Michigan -- An editorial photoshoot organized by a Flint photographer, makeup artist, and fashion designers will give models a chance to build up their portfolios with professional images and raise funds for mental health on August 20.

Joshua Johnson, owner of Joshua Johnson Design, is combining multiple passions for the event. He’s passionate about his work as a photographer, but also understands the need for greater resources and awareness for people with mental health struggles.

“I have always had the idea of giving back to mental health (causes), especially when I was diagnosed with schizophrenia and bipolar disorder,” Johnson said, who was diagnosed in 2018. “A lot of people are affected by mental illnesses, but there are still a lot of people who don’t sympathize or understand. And a lot of people are afraid to talk about it, or don't have people to talk about it with or understand it, so just seeing more and more people being visible and sharing their own experiences is important.”

Johnson noted that part of his motivation to give back stems from people or resources that helped him when he was diagnosed. 

“They made me want to help people who have (mental illnesses),” Johnson said. “Mental health and mental illness are always just kind of these hidden things. Especially in the African American community where there isn't as much awareness on the topic of counseling, the topic of medication and mental illness is a very new topic to us. It was not something that we grew up talking about. It was not something that our families really were aware of.”

The Editorial Photoshoot will be from noon-5 p.m. on August 20 at the Ferris Wheel downtown Flint. For a $100 registration fee, participants will receive five retouched images, makeup (including take-home products), and one styled look from a fashion designer. Proceeds will benefit the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI). Registration is available online. Johnson said they are capping the number of participants at 30, so people interested should register online as soon as possible.

Johnson is partnering with Anna Lee Lovely Lashes for the event. Fashion designers Shay Oliver and SevenEightySix are also partnering with Johnson to provide styling services during the event. 

For models who are trying to build up a portfolio of professional images, the event offers a great opportunity to do so at a low cost while also supporting an organization that helps people nationwide.

“Models need to develop their portfolio and developing a portfolio can be costly,” Johnson said. “This is giving them the opportunity to build their portfolio and network with makeup artists, network with designers, and donate to a cause to help people. I really feel like it's a great opportunity for the models, not only to build themselves, but to build their community.”

Johnson is a Flint native who started taking photos about 10 years ago and has been doing it professionally for eight years. He went to college at Ferris State and Kendall College of Art and Design. His passion for photography comes, in part, from how hard he had to work to get better at it.

“When I started off with photography, I actually wasn't that good at it all,” said Johnson, who first started taking photos in high school at the Skill Center. “The frustration of not being able to develop the actual film (at first), it made me get more passionate because a lot of the shots I was taking, I couldn’t see them. It made me want to appreciate and learn the craft of photography a lot more.”

Johnson also participated in fashion shows growing up in Flint, so his business combines multiple passions. Being based in Flint has also helped him be centrally located, as he now does photoshoots and works with models all over Michigan.

“The biggest thing that made me want to establish my business here is because Flint is home, and it is also a central location,” he said. “When I look at connections I’ve made over time in Detroit, Lansing, Grand Rapids, Flint is an easy middle ground to meet everyone.”

Registration for the Editorial Photoshoot is available online. For more information about Johnson and the creative services he provides, visit his website or follow him on Instagram.

Read more articles by Patrick Hayes.