Ewa-Mari Johansson is a Swedish photographer who, with Milan, New York and Stockholm as a base, has worked for Vogue, Harper’s Bazaar, DONNA, AMICA, Cosmopolitan, Swedish Månads Journalen and Elle. She studied art photography at UCLA, Los Angeles, and film at the New School in New York City. At the New School her teacher Arnold Eagle, who worked with Man Ray, Hans Richter, Herb Cline and in early years with Roy Stryker (FSA), became her mentor and inspiration.
She started working as a professional photographer in the 1980s. On the advice of Xavier Moreau, Helmut Newton’s agent, she left New York for Milan, where she worked as a fashion photographer for Vogue Bellezza. Besides working for major fashion magazines, she has published a number of photo books such as “To be or not to be” in 2007 and “IMAGE 2000 – 2008” published by Silvana Editoriale in 2016.
Her first photo exhibit was at in 1992 at Il Diaframma in Milan curated by Cesare Bossi, shortly followed by an invitation to take part in an exhibition at the Fiesole Musei. Since then, Ewa-Mari have been showing her photos and exhibitions at places such as Museo dell’intreccio mediterraneo, Castel Sardo, Museo Orto Botanico Bergamo, The State Russian Museum and Exhibition Center ROSPHOTO, S:t Petersburg and at Moderna Museet, Stockholm.
She had a dream to photograph indigenous people in particular women. In 2006 she got the possibility through her daughter Frances Sprei to photograph Maasai women in an area without tourist between Dar el Salam and Dododoma in Tanzania, the Morogoro district. Her photos from the stay became the exhibit Mama Maasai, first shown in Italy at Gallerie FNAC in Milan, Rom, Naples, Verona, Genova and Turin. Afterwards the exhibition was shown in several places in Sweden among these the Ethnographic Museum in Stockholm in 2009 and Dunkers Kulturhus in Helsingborg in 2011. Dunkers Kulturhus also published the book “Mama Maasai”.
Ambassador of Tanzania Victoria Mwakasege in Stockholm praised the Mama Maasai exhibit and said:
“I and my fellow Africans applause Ms. Johansson for portraying the true expressions, character and smiles of women- in this case the Maasai women. Through this exhibition you have celebrated the beauty of Maasai women and shown us and the world of real character and expressions of people from Africa.”
Before working as a photographer Ewa-Mari was a top model during the seventies in New York, Paris, London and Milan. She was often seen on the cover of Italian Vogue and many other magazines. She worked with the leading photographers of the time. Of these photographers Guy Bourdin was her favorite. His photos had an air of surrealism, which has also influenced Ewa-Mari as an artist and photographer, sparked at the age of seventeen years when she was invited to Salvador Dali in Cadaqués and got to speak with the artist himself about it.
During her nearly forty years as a professional photographer, Ewa-Mari Johansson has explored the strength of the female body. Searching for the soul that lies within the human expressions and the traces it leaves in the room. We meet strong and independent women in her photography.
Kajsa Lindskog, freelance curator, has said about her photos:
“The body, usually the female, is often in focus, but her women do not appear vulnerable and objectified, but rather as strong, proud and independent. I think this has to do with the fact that she really sees the person with humility through the lens and this humility is something that permeates her entire work.”