Johanna Ghebray

When did you first become interested in photography?

I started to become interested in photography when I was 14. I got a small digital camera from my father as a present, and then I realized that I wanted to be a photographer. That was at the time when everybody was asking me, What do you want to be when you're older? And I was like, I want to be a photographer, and then everybody was like, No, I think it's not alright if you're if you're doing that, or it’s not safe if you're doing this. So I started to see it more like a free time thing. But still I had it on my mind.

What do you like most about making portraits, and do you consider it a focus of your work?

For now, I don't want to focus on one specific thing. But when I do photography, I really like to do portraits, because it's interesting to see different perspectives, different sides of a person, or maybe the character of a person. You have the possibility to get to know someone from a different perspective, which is really interesting for me. And that's why I'm mostly focusing on that, but I don't want to just focus on portraiture.

Is there something that you're working on now that is taking you in a different direction, or are you always interested in a number of things at the same time?

Yeah, I think so. Also, video is really interesting for me, but due to the fact that I'm learning, and teaching myself everything on my own. I tried to focus first of all on photography, and I think I'm kind of a person who can be very quick to get bored, so I'm interested in different things. I like to get to know different things, because there's so much outside in this world. So why just focus on one thing?

Are there elements of your Eritrean heritage, or your upbringing in Germany, that influence your work?

What I realized in the last year is that I concentrate more on people of color, because I can relate to them more. It wasn't that I just wanted to focus on people of color, but it just happened. It started in 2017 when I took some pictures in Eritrea, of my family and of citizens from Eritrea, and maybe why I'm doing this is because I also realized that when I was a child, or when I was 15 or 16, most of the time I just saw white people in photography. When I saw models in magazines or something like that, I was just wondering, why isn't it normal or that people of color also appear in advertising or similar.

Is there an image or a series of images that you've made so far that's been really special to you?

I think one of them is an image of Nura. She's a German rapper, and that was really important for me, because her heritage is also from Eritrea. She asked me to take the photograph for her book cover. On that cover, she's wearing an Eritrean dress called zuria, which was really important for myself. Most of the time, I like the work I'm doing in my free time and not just for clients, because then you're free from money, free from everything else, it’s just on your own and with the person you're taking the pictures with, or with the object, or whatever it is, and without pressure.

Do you have a dream project? Or a technique or something kind of ambitious that you're you really like to try?

I'm still learning techniques. I just started last year and I'm already a photographer right now. So everything went really quick, but still I'm still learning all time. My dream is seeing myself as a photographer in Germany, and to constantly work with different personalities, and for magazines. I like to work with fashion, but I also like documentary photography--especially documentary, I would say. I hope I can do it next year, but my project was to take a series and documentary video from Eritrea. I plan to go there in June, and I want to make a series around my family, and my grandma. It's not possible right now with the pandemic, but I think that it's an important project that I would do.

This interview has been edited for length and clarity.

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