Dana Johnston could not have chosen a better small town to run her business from.
Based in Kurow, Dana Johnston Imagery was perfectly positioned in the Waitaki Valley to fill the design requirements for a good chunk of the region’s burgeoning businesses.
Johnston grew up in Papakaio, and attended Waitaki Girls’ High School.
The basis of her business, through which she offered her photography, graphic design and illustration, stemmed from a signwriting apprenticeship with Oamaru’s Maurice Ireland of MJ Ireland Signs, which she began in 2002.
She ‘‘came and went’’ from there, until starting her own business in 2017.
‘‘Then just over time, I’ve developed a skill base and sort of branched out and done my own thing.’’
Her photography skills were self-taught, and came through years of practice, she said.
The feedback Johnston had received from clients was that she made life easier, because she was a sort of ‘‘one-stop shop’’.
‘‘Because they don’t have to hire a photographer, then go and contact a graphic designer, then go to the print house. I can just wrap up the project and then go and liaise with the printers.’’
The beauty of her apprenticeship was she was one of a team of two, so learned every aspect of the job, and loved seeing a project through from start to finish.
‘‘You greet the clients, you do the design work, you do the production, you do the manufacturing and then you do the installation — and you see the whole job out, and that’s what I really love, instead of just being one puzzle piece.
‘‘I love being able to be on that journey with the clients, and be a part of their story.’’
Johnston was the creative talent behind the branding of local businesses such as Nest Tree Houses, Sole to Soul Hiking, The Clip, and Jessica Flora.
She regularly collaborated with Whistle and Pop’s Bex Hayman in all aspects of online business, and the pair ‘‘pushed each other creatively’’, she said.
A recent highlight was a year-long photography project with Philippa Cameron, from Otematata Station, for her book
A High Country Life, documenting station life, which was both ‘‘fascinating and thrilling’’.
She was also the illustrator of Harriet Bremner’s children’s books, which included the Gurt and Pops series.
Johnston counted her blessings living in such a supportive, entrepreneurial community.
‘‘A hundred percent. The opportunities are just incredible. Actually, I really enjoy the start-ups, like, we actually just did a photo shoot with Charlotte [Bell] last night for The Clip, and just the autumn vibe and everything. She’s building her website, and creating her content and it’s just history in the making. I just find it really awesome.
‘‘Just seeing them fly — ‘there you go, off into the world’.’’
Dana Johnston Imagery had clients from Auckland, through to Manapouri, in Southland, although most of the projects were based in the North Otago, South Canterbury, and Mackenzie regions.
Current projects were signage for Kurow Island and the Kurow Wetland Group, to provide information and photo panels, which would be placed strategically around the island and adjacent wetland, and a project with the Hakataramea Sustainability Collective — a regular client.
The part Johnston loved most about her job was the variety in her day.
‘‘I couldn’t just sit in an office 8am to 5pm. I can’t do it.’’
Photography probably made up the core of her work, but things ‘‘came in waves’’, and she wanted to focus more attention on her creative illustration, given the chance.
‘‘Keeping up with the graphic design and photography — they’re my day to day — but that’s where my interest lies, that’s where I really want to push myself.’’