My husband and I both met while working at an Electronic super store. He knew how much I loved the arts and photography. While we were dating in my twentieth year, he surprised me with my first Canon point and shoot camera with a zoom lens for Christmas. It was beautiful. I took it everywhere with me. It was with that same camera that I started documenting the lives of my children. Had anyone suggested the first time I held that camera in my hands where I would be in fifteen years, I would never have believed it were possible.
In the Fall of the year two thousand, I began praying to God for a career that would allow me to be at home to raise my precious children. I was pregnant at the time with my third and could have never imagined anyone else raising them.
I was madly in love with them and wanted to document every part of their life. We could not afford professional photography, so I took the “do it yourself” approach. I would set up backdrops, props, use natural light and snap away. It was not until a girlfriend of mine presented to me pictures that she had taken of her son by a photographer who had a home studio. The second I looked at them, I knew that this was it. I shared with my husband and never looked back. Photographs by Julie Johnson was born October 4, 2001. By 2006 I was voted best photographer in my city (first year nominated), and 2007 Burlington’s Best Portrait Studio (first year nominated). I have won both categories ever since. In September of 2006 I felt called to became a corporation and name the company went from Photographs by Julie Johnson to Vine Images Inc. The new name is based my favourite Bible passage..
“I am the vine; you are the branches. If a man remains in me and I in him, he will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing.” John 15: 5
Since establishing my business in 2001, Julie Johnson’s work has grown to include six published books, Welcome to Our Table, Prayers for My Baby Girl, Prayers for My Baby Boy, and Southern Teatime Pleasures, A Friendship to Bark About & You’re the Cats Meow.
My Past, My Story: Julie Johnson Testimony
I was born and raised in Burlington and I am the middle of three girls. My mother was raised Catholic and my father Presbyterian. We went to Catholic school. At the age of five my parents divorced after my father fell in love with another woman and left my mother. Within a few years, both of my parents remarried and had more children which made my sisters and I feel very much alone. I became very rebellious and by grade 8 started drinking alcohol, smoking and experimenting with drugs. I had the “feel sorry for me” attitude and manipulated my teachers. I invested everything into my friends and my social life and cared a lot about my image.
We visited my father every 2nd weekend. At the age of 11 my dad started reading the bible, going to church and became a born-again Christian. He totally changed and talked continuously about Jesus, how true the Bible was and the end times. I couldn’t understand it at all and mocked him for it. At home, I was very disrespectful to my mom and often didn’t come home at night. At 15 my parents helped me to rent an unfinished basement. I grew up fast working at a gas station to pay the rent. I was still in high school but the only thing keeping me there was my love for art class and learning about composition, lighting and design.
At 17, my Dad pressured me into attending the play “Heaven’s Gates, Hell’s Flames”. I found myself captivated by the message and during the altar call I felt called to the front of the church. Weeping, I went and asked Jesus to come into my life. I felt for a brief moment what I know now as the Holy Spirit’s presence. Months later, my life hadn’t really changed. Then, while on an 8-month adventure with two friends out west, I started hanging out with the wrong crowd and did marijuana daily. I could see my life heading in a downward spiral and knew I needed to change.
I returned to Ontario to complete high school. My English teacher Mr. Westhead was a Christian and through various assignments and conversations played a large role in helping me to start looking at the world through new eyes. I remember picturing myself looking down at the world watching what was happening and was very disillusioned. Friends thought I was insane since I couldn’t stop thinking and analyzing everything to its smallest component.
It wasn’t until November 4th, 1994 sitting with a few friends in my apartment, that I came to believe in God, life after death and the purpose to life. I started laughing because I had this amazing peace and then I started crying for all my lost friends. I had no idea what had happened but knew my search was over. I called my dad and he came and picked me up and we talked about God all night. He said that it was the best night of his life! I felt God’s love so abundantly that I was scared if I fell asleep that I would not feel Him anymore. I started reading the Bible and what I read encouraged me. I was a new person. My friends at the time could not understand what had happened and I remember one of my close girlfriends saying “I want the old Julie back”, and all I kept thinking was that I only wished that I had experienced God sooner! I had a love for people that I had never had before. I had a huge weight lifted off my shoulders and felt set free.
The Bible came alive to me. I couldn’t get enough of it. I lost most of my old friends. My dad and his friends became my closest companions. Within a few months, I started to work for a large retail company. While talking with a customer, I found out that he was a worship leader at Brant Bible Church in Burlington and shared that I had just come to know the Lord and was looking for Christian friends my own age. He got my number and a few weeks later, while laying in bed, in tears, praying to God to bring me good friends, the phone rang; it was the youth pastor inviting me to a youth group barbecue that afternoon! Praise God! I went and met two amazing girls that I had so much in common with.
Regarding relationships, I learned the hard way by dating men that weren’t Christians. Finally, I decided not to date again unless they believed in God definitively. Then, one day I walked into a work training session at our St. Catharines location and was very attracted to a customer service rep named Norman; he was also a relatively new Christian for the past 1 ½ years…. We were married at 22 and blessed with our first daughter at 23, second at 24 and third at 25.
Throughout my 1st pregnancy, God spoke to me and showed me that how I felt about my baby is similar to how He feels about us. The moment I met my daughter, I was madly in love. I had no idea the unconditional love that I would have for her. Our children are totally dependent on us. So too, we “children of God” should depend completely on our Father. We can’t force our children to love us, and have a relationship with us; just as God gave us free will to choose to relate with Him. Our children did not learn to speak on their own, they needed to be taught. We need to learn from God’s word on how to live and act according to His will.
As our children have grown up, God has shown me that my children represent me, and my parenting, just as we represent our Father and how much we allow Him to parent us and mould us. The more time we spend with God the more we become like him. You can really tell how much time people spend with God by the fruit in their lives: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, gentleness, faithfulness and self-control.
Since coming to faith, God has blessed me and been my guide in many ways. I prayed for a career that would allow me to be at home with my children and through various circumstances, took up photography and started my own business now called ‘Vine Images Inc.’ He has blessed my career in many ways, for example I have been voted number one in my city for four years in a row now. God is my inspiration and my strength and continues to bless me with new ideas and creativity.
One of my favourite Bible passages and the reason for the name VINE IMAGES is: “I am the true vine and My Father is the vinedresser. Every branch in Me that does not bear fruit, He takes away; and every branch that bears fruit, He prunes it so that it may bear more fruit. You are already clean because of the word which I have spoken to you. Abide in Me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself unless it abides in the vine, so neither can you unless you abide in Me. I am the vine, you are the branches; he who abides in Me and I in him, he bears much fruit, for apart from Me you can do nothing.” John 15: 1-5 NASB