Behind the Lens with ICM Photographer Joanna Proffitt

Sara CrockerSeptember 15, 2023
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Photos by Angelina Aragon
Photos by Angelina Aragon

When people see her work for the first time, they have a hard time believing Joanna Proffitt’s abstract photographs weren’t created using photo-editing software. On the contrary, her colorful, soft, painterly abstract images are created by Proffitt and her camera using a unique photography technique.

Much of Proffitt’s art is made with intentional camera movement (ICM). Using a slow shutter speed and movement, from her or from her subject, Proffitt creates arresting images.

“It’s very playful,” she says.

The results are always unique and can’t be replicated because they’re so dependent upon that singular pattern of movement and where the light is in that moment.

Though the Surprise resident had taken some photography classes at Glendale Community College, where she learned techniques like ICM, she’d let that hobby drop off to focus on her family and career as a legal assistant.

Proffitt has always considered herself crafty and creative, but a yoga class in an art studio got her thinking. She inquired about how to show work, and with “beginner’s luck,” the first photo she entered into a juried exhibition was accepted. She continues to exhibit her work at galleries around the state.

Proffitt largely shoots photography in her spare time and when traveling, taking inspiration from nature and architecture. She’s interested in capturing “things that are hidden in plain sight.”

“We’re so busy all the time – we’re on our phones, we’re rushing from one place to the next,” she says. “I think a lot of art is like that, capturing what a lot of people might miss, the magic in the mundane.”

See Proffitt’s work at or on Instagram @joannaproffittphotography.

Proffitt keeps her gear setup simple, using a Canon 5D Mark IV, natural light and movement to create her abstract photos.

Attending a yoga class in an art studio sparked Proffitt’s return to photography. In a whimsical nod, she has a series of Yoga Joes – little green Army men figurines in an array of yoga poses and stretches – in her studio.

Proffitt took “Azure” in Las Vegas. She generally doesn’t share what the original subject is because she’s more focused on what viewers see. “I don’t want to tell [people] what it means or how it should make them feel or what they should see. I want them to be involved in that,” she says.

The photographer has found rock art displayed throughout her Surprise home. She found most during the pandemic, when artists would decorate rocks and tease scavenger hunt details via social media. Though the trend has since tapered off, Proffitt continues to keep an eye out for painted rocks.

Proffitt paints on occasion to explore perspective and color – a creative outlet that likewise serves her photography practice.