Photographer of the Day: Belle Johnson

Belle Johnson

b. 1864, d. 1945

We’re skipping out on contemporary photography this time to talk about Belle Johnson, a woman photographer who does not get the attention she deserves. She is famous, but in the kind of way that no one cares. You get me?

Btw, we’re not talking about this Belle

We’re talking about THIS Belle

Just had to clear that up.

I adore this woman. She graduated the top of her class at her college, and went on to teach, but was like “nah man, not for me,” and left that job. SHE LEFT A JOB BECAUSE SHE DIDN’T LIKE IT. How many people go to school for a job that they don’t like, but keep working at it anyway? But yes, homegurl quit being a teacher and went to work at a photography studio. She ended up buying the studio within a year, and taught herself how to take nice photos with photography magazines.

Talk about self-motivation. It took me two hours to finally shower today, and Belle here is buying studios and wrecking expectations. Oh, and get this, her studio burned down. So she got a new one. Say what?

Johnson was one of the founding fathers mothers of the Photographers’ Association in Missouri, traveled around to keep up with the latest photo knowledge, and won countless awards for her photography. She is one of my biggest inspirations, because it seems like she did it all and she did it well. Good job, Belle. I wanna be like you.

But let’s look at the work that made Belle Johnson so important:

Three Women

Kittens

Innocence

Johnson was obviously the first photos-of-cats lady, way before icanhascheezburger got on that. She has a lot of pictures of kitties, so if you’re into that, go ahead and look ’em up.

The thing about her work is that while she was working as a studio photographer, she was also producing her own work. That takes a TON of self-discipline, since a lot of professionals feel like they just don’t have the time to make work they want to make. But, we all know that Belle was not lacking self-discipline, so there ya go.

Her photo Three Women, is one of my all time favorites. I used to have EXTREMELY long hair, so I was like “At least my hair wasn’t THAT long.”

There you have it. Belle Johnson is important and don’t you forget it. There aren’t nearly enough women photographers from her period that are celebrated, so keep her in mind.

The next photographer of the day is another one of my favorite ladies, Barbara Kruger. Keep an eye out!

Happy Shooting!

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Home Sweet Home: Senior BFA Solo Exhibition (plus some cheese)

The past 5 years of my undergraduate career boiled down to this one week.

I had been looking forward to it since Spring 2011. I had envisioned my senior show to be amazing, over the top, and the best I could make it. I’m so relieved to write that I was not disappointed.

First and foremost, before I swamp all of you with photos of the installation, there are a lot of people in my life I need to thank.

If you want to fore-go the cheese fest that is about to ensue, I suggest you scroll to the pictures.

My friends– for the enthusiasm they showed whenever it came to me taking pictures, whether or not it was photos of them or photos of garbage on the street. Their encouragement and support for my art has been the biggest influence on pushing me forward. I like seeing people smile, and I like impressing people even more (not even gonna lie about that– it’s so true.) So, thank you, for letting me impress you, and for saying to me, “Hey! I want my picture taken too!”

My teachers– for finding my potential and for pushing me to use it. For all of the times where I did something well and it was pointed out, and for the times I didn’t do something well and was challenged to improve. Mr. Ceresa, thank you for teaching me how to draw. I know I’m mostly into photography, but when I work with other media, your lessons come to mind (as does your sarcasm.) Mrs. Belf, there is a never ending list of things I can thank you for. The biggest thank you I have is for your encouragement. If it weren’t for you, and I sincerely mean this, I would not be where I am today and I would not be going to grad school this fall. Pointing out how I liked to work in series changed everything for my photography, and you taught me the basics for everything I know now. I cannot thank you enough.

My Mitchell– for carrying the heavy things, modeling last minute, and driving me around for materials and shoots. For turning on the generator in the woods and for making everything fit in your small car. For being the best assistant a photographer could ask for. For being friendly and kind to my friends. For hanging up the frames because the hammer bit my finger. For being the wonderful person you are.

And for carrying the heavy things– did I mention that?

My professors– for, really, everything. There are so many of you that have made me a better artist and person, each in your own small way. I can write better, explain myself with ease, take nice photographs, understand the technical aspects of my craft, and talk to my peers on account of you all. Thank you.

My Mom– for the sewing marathons, driving me around the country, taking me around the world, finding props in the basement, making costumes, filming in sketchy parts of the city, for loving me and telling me I’m amazing (and also making weird faces when I make something that isn’t so amazing,) and for dressing up as a creepy clown holding a butcher knife. It’s all your fault I’m here today. Who knew that making Popsicle-stick people and bead animal key-chains would lead to this? When I told you “I miss making art,” and you told me, “Well, maybe you should major in it,” I didn’t realize I was going to make my life out of it. I love you, mom. It really is all your fault. ❤

BUT ENOUGH OF THE CHEESE

Mostly everything I made for my exhibition had been made in the last two months, excluding my Home Sweet Home photographs. I essentially created the concept for my show around those photographs. So, only that piece and the embroidery-hoop pieces were things I did for class, the rest were on my own time.

Filling up the gallery was a daunting task. I had drawn numerous mock ups in preparation, but, of course, since they weren’t to scale they didn’t work out. I moved things around so many times, but the end result couldn’t have been better. I was so happy with everything, it was one of the saddest days of my life, taking everything down.

I didn’t envision my show to be made with different mediums, but it turned out for the better. I had traditional prints (Home Sweet Home,) mixed media photographs printed on cotton (Memory Mapping,) a video installation of home movies from when I was a kid (Documented Evidence,) a chair with a slip cover made out of photographs printed on cotton (Comfort,) and a few photographs that were weaved together (I Still See It Everywhere.) My concept was to bring the past and the present in my childhood home together, and all these mediums portrayed this idea in a different way. It was awesome.

There were a few things that were a total hit– well, more than a few, since my rubber ducky collection is MASSIVE. They were a last minute addition to my show, as was the dollhouse and the side table covered in mail. I was trying to push the chaotic feeling of being in my old house by incorporating these objects into the mix.

And yes, that is sawdust, and yes, that is a book of matches. All in the dollhouse! Humor!

The one last thing about the work in my show that I want to mention is my video installation, Documented Evidence. I had gotten a bunch of old televisions a while back for a photo shoot, and they have been sitting in my basement ever since. I’m not sure when or how or why the idea came to me, but they ended up in my show for one reason: proof. My entire concept was about how the house was the way it was, but I didn’t have any evidence of what the house looked like before all the construction began. That’s where the home videos came in. There were scenes of my house that I felt needed to be seen, to make the exhibition come full circle for my viewers.

It actually was a huge pain. I had all of these TV sets, but no DVD players– but I do have wonderful friends who lent me theirs (THANKS SHELBY, RACHEL, AND ELAINE!) What I didn’t know was that DVD players do not typically hook up to older TVs. So I became an expert on RF modulators realllll quick. It all worked out in the end, and the video installation was by far my favorite part of my show.

To see the video installation, follow this link to my YouTube.

So, if you missed out on my show, I hope this post paints a picture for you of what it was like. Thank you to everyone who helped out and showed up– having you all there meant the world to me.

Happy Shooting!

The House I Don’t Remember

I moved out of the Home Sweet Home house not too long ago, and things have changed in that house since then. It’s not the way I remember it at all. While I was in the process of moving, the photo album of a lot of my baby pictures was rediscovered. Inside were photos of my family and I in the house– only it looked completely different from anything I recall. I lived in this house before it became the house I knew, but I have no memory of it. At all. Yet, there is photographic evidence of my early life there.

I recently re-visited the house and took photographs with this project in mind. I had the Polaroids with me and I tried to replicate the composition of my house from the early 90s with what remains of it today. The thing about both the old pictures and new is that I don’t live in either of the scenes. Technically I did live in the house of the Polaroids, but since I don’t remember, I might as well never had. It’s a strange feeling, like a nostalgia for a place I’ve never been.

I created this series in anticipation for my senior BFA show (basically my thesis for my studio art degree,) and I can say with confidence that they worked extraordinarily well with everything else in my show– which I will be blogging about very soon, so keep an eye out!

That’s all for now. Happy Shooting!

Old Camera, Old Graves

When I was in New Orleans, I brought along my Voigtlander Brillant. I thought it would be a great camera to bring, since the images that usually come out of it have a weird over-cast antiquated look, and New Orleans is, well, old. I thought it would work out well. Turns out I was right.

I took it to New Orleans Cemetery #3 (because that’s where I took most of my photos, to be honest,) and took some shots. Oh, I also took a shot in the French Quarter.

Isn’t that old effect cool?

Also, that last image– I’m not saying it’s a ghost but, I mean. there wasn’t a light or anything in the scene when I snapped the photo, and the content interested me because it’s a broken up grave site, so I mean… I’m not saying it’s a ghost or anything, but I’m not saying it isn’t. Let’s have fun and accept it’s really weird.

Happy Shooting!