Stephen Johnson Photography News
Welcome to the November 2018 Edition of the Stephen Johnson Photography Newsletter.
I’ve been on the road for two weeks, to New York City, Washington DC, Maryland and Virginia. Many visuals linger in my mind, work, time with precious family and friends, our government.
This month's View From Here column follows my travel over the last month, featuring stories from the experiences and subsequent musings. We hope you find the column interesting and will consider sending us some comments.
FEATURED PRINT November 2018
Wave and Cliffs with Algae. Mendocino, CA. 2007.
9.5x14 Pigment Inkjet Print on Cotton paper
The patterns of water, rock and life seems to all come together in what almost seems like a kinetic still life.
Printing and Pt. Lobos Workshops coming right up!
Life Form Exhibition on display at Stephen Johnson Photography.
2018 Workshop Schedule is wrapping into 2019 with these and other great courses coming up. See what a great experience students have had on Steve's Workshops by exploring Workshop Testimonials.
Upcoming Events & Workshops
The Studio, Scholarships and Mentoring
As part of our ongoing commitment to photographic education, there is one student scholarship spot in many of our classes. Please pass the word along.
For discounted time studying with Steve, keep in mind our Mentoring Program.
With all of our busy schedules and limited budgets, destination workshops or classes become a challenge, but many of you still have questions you need answered, or feedback on some new work. We want to remind you of our Virtual Online Consulting Program. This service allows all of you out there around the globe to consult online live with Steve on technical, aesthetic and workflow issues using Skype and your webcam.
We hope you can come by the gallery and see the original prints in the new Life Form Gallery and its new Life Form Portfolio, the Exquisite Earth exhibition with its accompanying very special Exquisite Earth Portfolio 1. We invite you to join us on a workshop, rent lab space, or just say hello and let us know what you are up to photographically and what you might like to see us offer. We value your input.
Haunting light, strange, disturbing, beautiful despite the reality, from fires that have killed, making many ill. How can something so fundamentally destructive also carry beauty? Beauty has many facets.
THE VIEW FROM HERE
by Stephen Johnson
On the Road in New York, DC, Maryland and Virginia
When I go back east, I try to make the most of the cross-country trip. These past two weeks have been rather intense contrasts between city and country, teaching and practice. I like plunging into deep experience immersion. It makes life full, or makes it seem so. I know I want to live intentionally and intensively. Seeing those words appear on the screen makes me want to take a nap.
The trip was conceived as a mini-lecture tour, starting in New York City, which I improvised on from there.
I am always grateful to be invited back to PhotoPlus in New York to lecture. It is a great teaching opportunity, connecting with thousands of people over the years who need some help with their photography. It is also among the few venues left where I can connect with old friends and colleagues while trying to grow connections and opportunity. This year, I was blessed with both once again.
Wandering New York Streets
My first day in NY this year was spent walking the streets. It was colder than I anticipated, and my vest not being quite up to the warmth I would have liked, kept me a little on-edge.
The confluence of big city, ordinary objects, people in motion, street smells from car exhaust, restaurants, and refuse all mix together. The camera lets me sort the visual out of the mix, sometimes encouraging the mini-anthropologist in me, studying our state of affairs. It is a jumble.
I instinctively headed for the United Nations, only about 15 blocks from where I was staying. It felt like a good plunge into being in the city. The UN is deeply symbolic for me, a physical manifestation of our hopes for peace and the struggle to achieve such a state.
The fact that a Trump tower was across the street, did not escape my intention/attention nor fail to raise my irony antenna. The clouds reflecting on the building created a view of unreality that seemed completely appropriate.
Reality and illusion seem to always be in play in the city. It was particularly noticeable with the upcoming election and truth on trial. Photography often discovers visual to mirror our state of mind.
New York is jam-packed full of visuals. Almost everywhere I turn I see more time capsules of where we are, who we think we are, who we want to be, with wonderfully endless comments and contrasts along the way.
Lectures Along the Way
My PhotoPlus lecture this year was “Fine Art Printing.” I’ve presented this evolving lecture many times over the last 25 years at PhotoPlus and continue to be encouraged by how many people deeply value the beauty of prints.
It is a great feeling to be able to help sort out some of the complexities of connection, control and color management. It is very gratifying to hear from people over the years on the positive difference the information has made.
The most fulfilling of all is the realization that there may be thousands of prints out there that preserve experiences and delights that make fellow photographers proud. That pride makes for encouragement of the whole process, the meaning of photography and my desire to make a difference.
Friends I had made many years ago when I’ve taught at Maine Media Workshops have been inviting me to Virginia and their photo community for years. This year, thanks to Charles and Cindy Krumbien, the Focus Group of Richmond Virginia hosted a talk by me which brought more unexpected and good experiences.
The audience was appreciative and curious. There were so many things I could only touch on in the time I had, that it seemed it would be useful to come back.
Any trip to Washington DC draws me to the Air and Space Museum (and annex near Dulles). I never cease to be taken in by the reality of the machines that have so seductively carried us beyond this world literally, and photographically.
The museums are complex, and the settings dictate the photographic options. Sometimes I can make desperate form and design work together, which is surprising and delightful. I just keep looking, trying to piece together views, angle of view, stitch, perspective and wonder. The photographs are rarely as simple as I would like, but the fascination keeps drawing me back.
There is never a “right” lens to carry, so I now just assume I will stitch together needed wider views, and hope that a short zoom will suffice for other opportunities. A longer lens could also be useful, but visits are often too short to be fiddling with equipment. That does leave me with that nagging sense that I could do more, but I try hard not to let that dominate the experience.
The Air and Space Annex now houses a real, traveled Space Shuttle, the Discovery. The Discovery flew 39 missions, launched the Hubble Space Telescope, and traveled 148,221,675 miles over 27 years from 1984 through 2011. I’ve seen the prototype Enterprise many times, starting way back in 1982. And I’ve had the extraordinary experience of being at the Kennedy Space Center, on the launch pad 39B in 1996 walking around the shuttle Columbia waiting to fly and in 1997 on Pad 39A with this very shuttle Discovery.
Walking around the Discovery was a new experience. Naked, unshackled by launch gantry, the gigantic external fuel tank and boosters, here was the actual spacecraft. It seemed uniquely real world. Cobbled together in high-tech tile, patchwork fabric and sleek solid nosecone and leading edge wing tiles, the spacecraft was well worn, man-made dream and reality right before my eyes. I kept walking around it, as my once 12 year old boy, the 63 year old man, and the ordinary citizen who saw two of these birds that were lost with 12 lives.
Washington DC as Our Capitol
I have always used my photography to explore the world, who we are, what we have done, and where I hope we might evolve. Trips to our nation’s Capitol have taken on much more complex meanings these days, and although I still feel deep pride in our aspirations as Americans, I’m am deeply concerned about the directions that journey has taken. This feeling is not just limited to current politics.
My last visit to Washington DC was just before the 2016 election. I felt fear in the air and visited the National Archives to see the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution. I needed the reassurance of their reality. It turned out I needed it more than I could imagine.
On this trip, fear of our new reality was an understatement. At Air and Space, or for a nice lunch at the Museum of the American Indian, I could get lost in a celebration of what we’ve accomplished technologically, and the familiar horror of what we did to our native peoples.
As I walked toward the US Capitol, for the first time in my life visiting DC, a dread descended on me that was palpable. Had I been here during the Vietnam War, I’m sure I would have known this feeling long before. But all of these years visiting our capitol, with congresses I’ve been disappointed in and presidents I’ve both been proud and ashamed of, I’ve never felt the same dread. The closest to it was when I came through in 2002, my first visit after 9/11, when I felt how precarious this whole American dream might actually be. I didn’t feel the dread of destruction from within. This time, that feeling was pervasive.
Walking around the capitol building, seeing scaffolding surround the House, a big cloud forming overhead, carrying my mono-pod which I realized might be mistaken for a weapon, all weighed me down, way down. I walked over to the Supreme Court, thinking about what may be coming and how much the dream and aspiration of America might rest on what happens in that building this next year. I had never been inside, but this time I had to see the Chamber itself. The real place where great and bad decisions have been argued, where our nation depends on justice, and does not always see it delivered. I stood there for a long time, pondering our nation’s future and the great aspirations it was founded upon.
Carrying a camera with a desire to make a difference can create agendas, “You see what you want to see,” becomes a legitimate concern. Seeing ironic juxtapositions, being sensitive to visual evidence of concerns, sometimes just the act of going someplace because it is a place of power or intrigue empowers us to notice, and record. I don’t believe I have ever made a good photograph based on political commentary. But I have witnessed events, purposely visited places involved in controversy, and tried to find visual manifestation of anxieties I feel.
It is simpler for a photojournalist in some ways, even though their work is often much harder and more dangerous. They often work in danger to document visual evidence of tragedy and wrongdoing. They are often truth-telling heroes. I’m trying to walk a different line, still letting the artistic intent dominate, while trying to be insightful about the implications.
I knew I was going to Monticello in the next few days. Starting out from our slave-built national capitol, with all of those obvious sad contradictions, my sensitivities were only going to heighten over the next few days. It was a lot to take in, and I was troubled. Meeting my daughter for dinner was the great relief of the day. Her smile, beauty and wit turned my mood around.
And, of course, there is always so much more to see…
Monticello is a place of great contradictions for me. It was the home of Thomas Jefferson, one of our most gifted founding fathers, the author of the Declaration of Independence, third President of the United States. It was also a slave plantation.
I spent time on this visit on anther tour of the house, but also an longer interpretive walk to the Slave Quarters, listening carefully to descriptions of life and work conditions. The guide made it quite clear that despite the children that emerged, Jefferson’s relationship with Sally Hemings and his other slaves was still one, of these people, being his property. This clearly did not fully characterize the relationship the guide argued, but despite the trust Jefferson put in Sally’s brothers and her children, they were not on his plantation, nor working, voluntarily.
On the Road
We don’t need unrealistic melodrama to make beautiful photographs. For me, it is a deeply satisfying journey to work hard to record what I see. As I seem to repeat endlessly, realism is of great value. Beauty and realism may not be enough to make the photograph important to me beyond the personal moment. It may not rise to making it into my “greatest hits” folder, but stomping on the reality with trumped-up saturation and contrast would not move it either.
My own experience is that we rarely make great photographs. When we do, it is the rare moment of light coinciding with opportunity and skill. What I do in processing afterward has far less importance, regardless of what is needed for my own aesthetics and memory.
In Richmond Virginia
A dawn on the James River started my exploration of the area. It was a lovely morning, and the site along the river was rich in form and line, rock, current and trees.
I felt empowered by the ease at which I can now do high dynamic range (HDR) files and encode such a broad range of light, even beyond what my eyes can take in. I made quite a few HDR sets, some with the intention of stitching them together into panoramics. Thanks to local photographer David Everette for taking a group of us down to one of his favorite places along the river.
Over the next few days I got a much broader glimpse of this city, the river and its history. I was grateful for the exposure, and with visits to Williamsburg and Jamestown over the next days, my sense of the history evolved.
The trip had many reminders of hardship, brutality, contrasting with the friendly warm people I was meeting. The Virginia south is obviously not what it had been. Just as California once paying for Indian scalps and making laws against Chinese immigrants is a thing long past. But there are reminders of the history, the Civil War Confederate prison on Belle Island in the James River, the interment camps in California from much more recent history. We must not forget who we have been, in order to clearly forge ahead into who we aspire to be. My little journey of exploration did serve as an ongoing set of reminders of that struggle.
Although my mind and heart was pulled all over the place in the few days I was in the region, my camera and I came away with much to sort out. There are many photographs to take me down a few of those journeys as I write this now.
Friends in Richmond Virginia took me down to Monument Avenue as they wanted to photograph the Jefferson Davis Memorial.
I’ve been thinking about what treason means of late. Standing in front of the monument was chilling, the etched words so contradicted the history of what happened, at Fort Sumter and countless Civil War battlefields.
As I was trying to capture what I saw, it was clear in my mind that any photograph I might make would somehow have to reflect the disgust I was feeling for slavery and the huge carnage that was the Civil War. With 620,000 dead, we know nothing today of the suffering. I didn’t know what form that emotional reaction might take.
As it turned out, another photograph, this one from 1862 by one of Mathew Brady’s photographers, Alexander Gardner, provided the needed context.
Photography takes so many forms. I am drawn to its potential veracity more than any other quality. Sometimes the option to juxtapose photographs to convey a larger, deeply felt context can be part of that power.
Image combination is not new, and has certainly been used for evil when designed to fool viewers into an altered reality. This joining of images into an obvious montage felt like a larger truth for me.
These dark words are inscribed on the circular stone surround:
“Not in hostility to others, not to injure any section of the country, not even for our own pecuniary benefit; but from the high and solemn motive of defending and protecting the rights we inherited, and which it is our duty to transmit unshorn to our children.”
Although it hadn’t initially occurred to me, people are asking if they can buy a print of this of the Memorialized photo. I think this might be a good idea, and it seems I might have found the appropriate non-profit to donate at least 50% of the proceeds to, The Southern Poverty Law Center. Please email me with any thoughts you might have. email@example.com
At Home: Smoke from Devastating Fires
The light is pretty this morning. It is very smoky. The photographs could be romantic, but it is not the world I want to see. Golden light is not the answer to every landscape question.
Haunting light, strange, disturbing, beautiful despite the reality, from fires that have killed, making many ill. How can something so fundamentally destructive also carry beauty? Beauty has many facets, some very dark.
The fires are still burning. It has been a week now, with the death toll growing and breathing masks showing up everywhere.
At Stephen Johnson Photography
As I’ve been on the road for weeks, most of what has been happening here at SJ Photo is working on this Newsletter and the Fall News for the Pacifica Land Trust, on which I have been a board member 16 years.
The upcoming Pt. Lobos and Fine Art Printing are seeking students now. Enroll while there is time and space!
Life Form opened in the Main Gallery at Stephen Johnson Photography on July 21. We have had many visitors come by the gallery since the opening. Many have then joined workshops and certainly helped build community. Please come see the show. Pass the word.
Seeking Good Venues for Life Form
We are seeking good venues to show this work. The Life Form Series is now available for museum and gallery exhibition after December 2018.
Parks Project Poster Bundles
I've decided to bundle some of my National Parks Project Collector posters together for a special price, 6 for $50. This series was created to celebrate photography's evolution into a digital media with Stephen Johnson's all digital "With a New Eye: The Digital National Parks Project."
Foresta Burn Yosemite Poster
Mt. St. Helens Crater Poster
Mt. St. Helens Hills and Haze Poster
Arches National Park Poster
Kenai Fjords National Park Poster
Dawn. Merced River Canyon. Yosemite Poster
Don't forget to Check out our next workshops
Next Studio Workshop
Next Field Workshop
Print Mentor Program
Many of my mentoring students have wanted help with their printing, often to make sure they can produce a specific print. Consequently, I am starting a Print Mentoring Program that sets up a 2 hour time slot and the production of a finished print, all with the tutorial video of how we did it together. Prints can be up to 16x20 and on either Hahnemühle Museum Etching or Photo Rag Pearl paper. Fee is $500. Email for more information and to set up times.
Free and For Sale
Free Stuff (a few items still left)
Last summer we replaced the Epson 2400s in our lab with their new P600s and consequently have some printers to seed to photographers in need. We were also given some Epson Canvas to share. These are available for pick-up to those of you on my mailing list. Let me know of your interest. I do want to spread them out among a few people.
We've had a few takers, but more are left. Take Advantage.
Epson Canvas Rolls 17 inch
1 Epson 2400 printer left
Equipment for Sale
Canon Lens for sale. EF 70-200mm f/4L IS USM
The EF 70-200mm f/4L IS USM is a lightweight, compact L Series telephoto zoom lens with Image Stabilizer. The optical Image Stabilization in the EF 70-200mm f/4L IS USM lens provides up to an incredible four stops of shake correction-a first for Canon IS lenses. The use of fluorite UD lens elements provides excellent optical performance in terms of resolution and contrast. These features, together with its water-and dust-proof construction, provide both the performance and portability to meet user demands.
EF 70-200mm f/4L IS USM. $600. I am selling this pristine 1 year old lens as I have replaced it with the new version II.
New Life Form Folio
The Life Form Folio
As we are premiering the Life Form Exhibition, I wanted to have a collectible item and record of the show prior to the full book I plan. So, now available is the 36 page 11x17 wire bound book, 5 years of work from 2013 to 2018 exploring these magnificent lives.
Photographs from 2013-2018
11x17 wire-bound book
New Exquisite Earth Exhibition Catalog
The Exquisite Earth Exhibition Catalog
As I've been on a roll on fixing bodies of work into POD books, I decided before the Exquisite Earth show could come down for new upcoming show, I wanted to create a printed record. So, now available is the 56 page 11x17 wire bound book, 5 years of work from 2005 to 2010 traveling this wondrous planet.
Photographs from 2005-2010
11x17 wire-bound book
New Pacifica Book
11x17 wire-bound book
Pacifica Trail Map
32 years in Pacifica
10 years of calendars
Pacifica Trail Map by Pease Maps special to the Pacifica Land Trust.
11" x 17" folded
$10 (free shipping) proceeds go the Pacifica Land Trust a non-profit 501c3.
Gift Certificates for Prints and Workshops!
Emailed or shipped with beautiful gift note card.
Life Form Note cards
5x7 inches (sold-out, on backorder)
12 image Note card set with envelopes featuring photographs from Steve's new Life Form work.
Printed by Steve in his studio in very limited numbers on a color laser digital press
National Park Note cards
12 cards/envelopes $20 set
From "With a New Eye" Beautiful 300 line screen offset reproductions with envelopes in clear box. A great gift.
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