My love of all things photographic began at 11 with an old printing kit of my mother's. Once I saw an image wondrously appear in the developer I was hooked. This led me to lots of experimentation, three academic degrees, a number of films and thousands of photographs produced over sixty years. The first decade I was interested in photography I subscribed to Popular Photography and Modern Photography and read them cover to cover then tried everything including all kinds of early experimental processes. I photographed with cameras of ever-increasing complexity and size from subminiature to 8x10, while I also started making lots of little regular 8 mm, Super 8 mm movies, and later 16 mm and finally 35 mm movies. See my Films page to hear more about my work as a filmmaker.

    My formal training began at Colorado State University Pueblo when it was Southern Colorado State College, where I further experimented and studied art and all the humanities among other things for three years. Here I saw dedicated teachers and pondered if this was for me.

    I was a 3rd year transfer student to Rochester Institute of Technology in Rochester, New York. I had a great time with amazing instructors at the world's oldest (1829) and largest school of photography/film. At RIT I did an independent study at the George Eastman House International Museum of Photography. I received my Bachelor of Fine Arts degree in Photographic Illustration graduating at the top of my B.F.A. class with Highest Honors.

    At Cranbrook Academy of Art, a graduate art school, I continued my education and working and experimenting with photography and film.

   I have always tried to make it a point of meeting or corresponding with artists I admire so I corresponded with Minor White, Ansel Adams, Paul Caponigro, Harry Callahan and others. Many of these individuals like Ansel, Minor, Aaron Siskind, Oliver Gagliani invited me to their homes.

    It was also during this time that I took a number of workshops including a Friends of Photography workshop in Carmel, California at which time I met Paul Caponigro and Ansel Adams (both of whom I had corresponded with) along with Brett Weston who invited me to his studio and was encouraging.

    In Ansel’s home he showed me his work and his darkroom. He studied my portfolio at length and gave me words of encouragement. You could watch whales migrate from Ansel’s couch and his bookshelf was definitely one of kind with all the first editions of his and his friends’ books! I remember his 8 x 10 horizontal enlarger which had lots of lights which individually could be switched on or off (allowing him to lighten or darken various areas of his enlargements without having to dodge or burn), and the giant impeccable prints on his walls near his baby grand . . . Perfect!

    Something he told me which I try to convey to my students is that you must "feel the light, remember the light which was there when you previsualized your image" at the time of exposure, that's when the strongest images result.

    Though I had done commercial photography of all sorts including working for the State of Colorado as a photographer documenting the construction of the Eisenhower Tunnel under the Continental Divide, as a newspaper photographer and a TV cameraman, I decided that teaching and expressive work were for me and therefore a Master of Fine Arts degree was required.

    The Thatcher Foundation, which had funded my studies at RIT, encouraged me to continue on with graduate school and the best offer came from Cranbrook Academy of Art in Bloomfield Hills, Michigan. Here I continued working more intently with the Zone System, first taught as a Graduate Teaching Assistant, completed more portfolios using my 4 x 5, made an experimental film or two and received my Master of Fine Arts degree in Photography.

    My wife Nadine and I returned to Colorado where I began teaching at a number of institutions of higher learning.

    In the decades since, I have further refined my photographic technique, made three professional films, lived in California for a few years, and have exhibited widely: Denver Art Museum, Museum of New Mexico, Washington Gallery of Photography, University of South Carolina, Texas Tech, Michigan's Scarab Club and RIT's Photography Centennial Celebration, among many others.

    My photographs and biography have been published in a number of books including, but not limited to: Visual Concepts for Photographers, Photographic Materials and Processes, View Camera Technique (which has an entire portfolio of mine), was a contributing editor for the 3rd edition of the Focal Encyclopaedia of Photography 3rd Edition, and am included in a number of Who's Whos (WorldAmericathe Westof Emerging Leaders in America, and Entertainment) and one I'm particularly proud of because I was submitted on four occasions by my students from four different institutions, Who's Who Among America's Teachers.

    I think Photography can reveal a pure beauty in the world we live in if you train your eye to simply observe, I like to think of it as a "severe beauty" which I have tried to portray through my photography. While I think film can take us to times and places we could not otherwise experience. With films, I love creating a totally different world, but for me with photography, it’s the exact opposite, straight photography magnificently portrays the world as it is.

John Henry Johnson

To contact me regarding my work, email me at: tamarackprod@mac.com.

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