Julia Johnson

Lecturer and Course Leader, Photography

Faculty:Faculty of Arts, Humanities and Social Sciences

School:Cambridge School of Art

Location: Cambridge

Areas of Expertise: Photography , Arts and health research

Courses taught: Photography, Art, Health and Wellbeing

Julia practices her PhD research with the University of the Arts London, London College of Communication and collaborates with the National Health Service in pursuit of her enquiries.

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Email: julia.johnson@aru.ac.uk


Julia's research interrogates photography’s potential to support mental health recovery, as a participative, therapeutic catalyst that is relevant to an emerging field of study: for facilitating conversations between groups of people experiencing mental health issues and for therapists and researchers who recognise the potential of participants’ photographs as a form of visual research data. Julia has been awarded a scholarship by London Doctoral Design Centre to support her research enquiries.

Julia's multimedia projects developed from working with diverse marginalised communities including: Eastern European migrant workers, Refugee communities based in the Calais "Jungle"’, Slovakian Roma communities and members of the UK soldiering community who have experienced homelessness or entered the criminal justice system in the aftermath of war.

In 2012, she delivered a participatory photography programme to Cambridgeshire's Gypsy and Traveller youth community. At the time, the programme aimed to provide the community with the tools to produce their own forms of self-representation as a response to the media’s stereotypical portrayal of this notoriously private community. Julia continues to facilitate photography workshops in a participative manner and is currently working with the NHS Recovery College. Her research into the arts and healthcare also led to the development of ARU's MA Art, Health and Wellbeing course.

Julia also works as a commercial freelance photographer.

Research interests

  • Participatory methodologies
  • Phototherapy
  • Photography
  • Mental health
  • Marginalised communities
  • Human rights

After rigorously researching the landscape of creative participatory programmes and their efficacy in delivering their objectives, Julia Johnson will design a methodological template to enable better mental health recovery. The template will be tested, analysed and improved whilst Julia delivers two therapeutic participatory photography programmes to people accessing NHS mental health services. For those experiencing symptoms, verbalizing the issue of mental health is challenging: collaborating with other sufferers to construct the most relevant photographic images of oneself potentially opens up a non-verbal, non stigmatized rhetoric within the therapeutic process.

Julia recently led on the research generative Designing Participation: Current Approaches and Future Directions conference at the Royal Society of Arts in London, collaborating with two other researchers, Jack Champ and will Renel, in order to organise the event in 2017. The conference included a cross section of professionals from the participatory arts community who engaged in a series of workshops. These activities generated significant research that culminated in a final report published by London Doctoral Design Centre.


  • Photographic Practice and Context: modules 1 & 2
  • Professional Development
  • Photographic Sequences


Working towards a London Doctoral Design Centre (Ldoc) funded PhD Research Degree.

  • MA Photojournalism and Documentary Photography.
  • Certificate of Higher Education incorporating a Diploma to Teach in the Lifelong Learning Sector (DTLLS)
  • BA Hons Photography and Digital Media

Memberships, editorial boards

National Union of Journalists

Research grants, consultancy, knowledge exchange

Studentship from London Doctoral Design Centre (Ldoc)

Recent presentations and conferences

RNUAL Conference, University of the Arts London, February 2017
Community and Culture ARU conference, May 2016

Media experience

Getty Images Contributor

'Gypsy Wedding "Stereotype" challenged by Traveller Photos' :bbc.co.uk

Selected for Portrait Salon, 2011