Dr Julia Johnson

Senior Lecturer
Faculty of Arts, Humanities, Education and Social Sciences
Cambridge School of Art
Areas of Expertise:
Photography , Arts and health research
Research Supervision:
Courses taught:

Julia is a Senior Lecturer in Photography and Course Leader for ARU's BA (Hons) Photography degree, and AHESS Faculty Chair for the research ethics panel. She completed her PhD research with the University of the Arts London, London College of Communication, and collaborated with the National Health Service in pursuit of her enquiries.

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Julia is a Senior Lecturer, Course Leader of the BA (Hons) Photography, and an arts and healthcare research-professional who designs arts-based products that support ethical research and treatment in public services including the NHS. As part of her AHRC-funded research-based PhD outcomes, she developed a toolkit for ethical practice in collaboration with the NHS. She is currently developing a commercial healthcare tool for research and treatment to support public health services. In the past, Julia assumed the role of member of the Health Research Authority Research Ethics Committee for the NHS. She has also worked in a consultancy role for London College of Communication, University of the Arts London.

Julia has conducted several research studies in her role as Principal Investigator with the NHS and in other public health settings. In 2017-2018, she worked with the NHS leading two studies that examined the efficacy of therapeutic photography to support people accessing NHS mental health services. She has secured funding for these research studies through the National Health service, London Doctoral Design Centre, University of the Arts London and the Research and Innovation Department at ARU.

Julia’s lead roles in designing courses and modules at Cambridge School of Art include BA Photography, cross-school contextual studies provisions and a new MA in Arts, Health and Wellbeing.

Julia's background as a photographer has informed her inclusive approach to health care and the manner in which she collaborates with participants in research studies: as a photographer she worked 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 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 as part of research studies and has worked with a range of public health services in this context, including an NHS recovery college. Her research into arts and healthcare led to the development of ARU's MA Art, Health and Wellbeing course. Julia has also worked as a commercial freelance photographer.

Research interests
  • Mental health
  • Participatory methodologies
  • Health care practices
  • Visual research methods
  • Phototherapy and therapeutic photography
  • Marginalised communities
  • Human rights

Julia led on the research generative Designing Participation: Current Approaches and Future Directions conference at the Royal Society of Arts in London 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. The event was a follow-up on the Arts Council England’s (ACE) last report objectives to respond on adult participatory arts.

Areas of research supervision
  • Participatory photography methodologies
  • Visual research methods
  • Co-design and evaluation
  • Community based participatory research and the arts
  • Commercialising your research outputs

Julia currently teaches on the following modules:

  • Research Project (level 6)
  • Contemporary Issues and Debates (level 5)
  • Photographic Practice and Context (Level 4)

  • 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
  • Higher Education Academy Fellow
  • Member of the Performance, Arts, Health and Wellbeing forum
Research grants, consultancy, knowledge exchange
  • AHRC-funded PhD. Additional funding through NHS, UAL and RIDO
Selected recent publications

2022 Paper under review Arts and Health journal, Taylor & Francis.

2022 CoDesign Focus ethics toolkit for the NHS. An AHRC-funded PhD outcome.

2021 Contributing foreword to Spitfire Ace of Aces. The Album. The Photographs of Johnnie Johnson by Dilip Sarka MBE. Published by Air World, Spring 2021.

2019 Arriving: Objects and Discovery project and storybook (collaborative research project with StoryLab research – Julia Johnson's photography work included). StoryLab research, Anglia Ruskin University.

2017 Designing Participation: Current Approaches and Future Directions report. Published by LDoc. Accessible through The British Library and ARRO.

Recent presentations and conferences

2020 Interpretative phenomenological analysis and photovoice methods in participatory therapeutic contexts. Participatory Inquiry Forum, Anglia Ruskin University.

2020 Photovoice and Interpretive Phenomenological Analysis methodologies, employed in mental health contexts. Post-Graduate Research Forum, Anglia Ruskin University.

2019 Creative Transformations – research generative workshop and seminar. University of the Arts London, London College of Communication.

2017 Culture, Health and Wellbeing conference, Arts and Health South West, Bristol.

Media experience

Getty Images Contributor.

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

Selected for Portrait Salon, 2011.