Photographer David Johnson, will be our upcoming featured artist for April's First Friday Artwalk.
Since 2007, David has been attending the Kerrville Folk Festival, documenting the annual 18-day event while capturing the performers and festivalgoers, and has produced a series of photographs from the festival, titled 'it can be this way always'. Art Connections Gallery is proud to unveil this series at the gallery, beginning on Friday, April 1st at the First Friday Artwalk reception, 5-9 pm.
We recently asked David a series of questions about himself and his artmaking process. Here is the interview in its entirety.
AC: Why do you use the field camera rather than digital? And what makes your photos different because of that?
DJ: The large format camera slows the art making process down… I can make 200 photos in 20 minutes with a digital camera and may end up not having anything that I am pleased with, or I can take my time and set up a single image for 5 to 20 minutes and have a resolved photo at the end. A 4x5 camera has weight and needs a tripod, a fact that reminds me to slow down. Through slowing down, the composition is thoughtful and all the elements that make the image are considered. I have to make a commitment to the image to make it. I like the idea that I have to move around the camera to make it work… as you move around the camera you begin to move around the subject differently.
AC: What brought you to be an artist?
DJ: One part was having an intense curiosity and never being happy with the answers I was provided. One part was struggling in school, and photography class was the only thing that made sense at a difficult time. One part… honestly I’m not sure if it’s really any one thing, it's who I am and the conditions that surround me. I’m generally culturally hungry, mostly optimistic and never satisfied.
AC: How does being an educator affect your art?
DJ: I constantly have to find and explain new artists, themes, methods that can excite, challenge, and force students to make opinions. It changes the way I work in my studio, and my studio process changes the way I teach. Teaching is developing individual visual languages and creative problem solving in my students. I'm still developing my own. I do not think the process ever stops.
AC: You are an active volunteer in the St. Louis arts community. Tell us the impact of this volunteerism.
DJ: Not only Art Community but Community… Bringing people and ideas together is exciting and it’s necessary for an engaged culture. I would not be the artist or person I am without the communities I have experienced. I help run an artist residency and through our programming, provide space and time for artists to work. This has allowed us to bring international artists into the St. Louis community and will soon place St. Louis artists in other communities across the globe. I think artists need to continually experience other places to define their own space. Another project I’m working on is organizing a photography conference in St. Louis for the midwest region of the Society for Photographic Education. The theme of this conference is “Conflict Resolution.” This conference is looking at the role of photography and art in documenting, analyzing and interpreting confrontation and struggle from an individual, regional, national and global perspective. The theme has originated from the unrest in nearby Ferguson and the conversations and community engagement that have developed since. Our goal is to bring several speakers to create a distinct event that is socially engaged, presenting new context to our students and membership. We hope to have 300 to 500 students and education professionals in one space to have multiple conversations.
AC: Are there any recent awards, successes or milestones you'd like to report?
DJ: I’ve developed a new project with poet Philip Matthews called Wig Heavier than a Boot. It's pretty exciting to be in collaboration with an artist whose medium is completely different from my own. We will have our first exhibition in St. Louis in November at the Beverly.
AC: Can you explain why you would do a series that spans 8 or more years?
DJ: Sometimes it takes just longer to resolve an idea than others. I think art history has taught us that masterpieces can take an afternoon or they can take an entire life span. Time and art don’t really go hand in hand that often. (Please note: I’m not saying that I think I’ve made a masterpiece. I don’t know what that’s like; maybe someday, but I’ll do my thing and let others come to that conclusion.)