Nitashia Johnson has already overcome more in her first two decades on this Earth than many will in a lifetime.

This summer, the young Dallas-based multimedia artist and designer was featured in a New York Times project called Surfacing that highlighted work by 27 Black photographers across the country,

 including luminaries such as Carrie Mae Weems and Dana Scruggs as well as other notable emerging artists such as Miranda Barnes.

Johnson’s work highlights the beauty of the Black body and the beauty of nature.

Last fall, Johnson had a solo exhibition at the South Dallas Cultural Center called The Self Publication that featured devastatingly gorgeous portraits of young Black people.

 Like many great artists, Johnson has a unique ability to pull out her subjects’ inner world.

Her use of natural light often imbues the Black people she shoots with an ethereal glow,

and it is stunning to see such fine and empathetic portraits of Black millennials.

Johnson thinks a lot about mental health—her own and everyone else’s.

In our interview, we talk about her childhood, the effects of COVID-19, and her passion for helping young people.

“My mom got caught up in the war on drugs, my dad got deported back to Nigeria when I was a kid,” she says.

“My aunt, my grandma, my older sibling—they had their own obligations, and it was just hard to take on two additional kids. I remember bouncing around a lot.”

Johnson’s voice is incredibly steady as she recounts some of the traumatic details from her childhood,

calmly and matter-of-factly, as if she has long since made peace with her journey.

“I have seen a lot of stuff, lived in hotel rooms, the projects, went to a ton of different schools.

It shifted my perspective of the world. I don’t fault my parents for anything that happened; the world can catch you at a bad moment and break your spirit.” she says.

Even though Johnson’s mother is not part of her life, she is grateful to her for starting her on the path to becoming an artist.

“My mom was a really good artist.

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