Keith Johnson: The Chosen Place and Celestial Navigation
Keith Johnson has been a long time photographer friend, in fact one of his photographs hangs in my house and I look at it on a daily basis, so in some ways Keith is more in my life than he realizes. He has always been an observer and even in his early work, he was cataloguing the world in his own way. Over the last several years, Keith has been exploring the world through new connections and combinations of images (especially grids), two sets of which I am featuring today, The Chosen Place and Celestial Navigation. He currently has an exhibition at the Wall Space Gallery in Santa Barbara (with an opening on Friday, August 19th at 5pm) that runs through August 25th.
Keith received his MFA from RISD studying with Harry Callahan and Aaron Siskind following a year at Visual Studies Workshop with Nathan Lyons. Ten years of teaching led to a move to the business side of photography after completing an MBA. He supports his fine art making as a sales consultant in the northeast and is on the summer faculty at Penland School of Crafts, VSW, and Maine Media Workshop, and thesis mentor at SVA in NY and AIB in Boston.
Recent solo shows include Griffin Museum, Winchester, MA; CEPA Gallery, Buffalo, NY; FotoFest, Houston, TX; George Eastman House, Rochester, NY; New England School of Photography and Panopticon Gallery, Boston, MA; Nelson Hancock Gallery, Brooklyn, NY; Wall Space Gallery in Seattle and Loomis Chaffee School, Windsor, CT.
Collections include RISD, George Eastman House, and Center for Creative Photography. He is a recipient of two Connecticut Commission on the Arts Fellowships and Residencies at Light Work and Visual Studies Workshop, CEPA Gallery, Buffalo, NY, and Loomis Chaffee School, Windsor, CT.
The Chosen Place
This all started in maybe 1980 or so when the Seneca Point cottage was built. It is a beautiful place and lake called Kanandarqua by the Senecas meaning “The Chosen Place.” Over the years I have stood on the deck looking out on Bare Hill and Vine Valley made lots of pictures from maybe five (slightly different places) on the deck I photographed the sky, the water, the light and the feeling of the place. Storms, fireworks on July 4, flares on Laborp Day, a bit of Spring or Fall, clouds and all. I never intended to do anything with these pictures. They were made because the place sort of compelled me to. I was (and remain) captured by the spirit of the place.
Celestial Navaigation Celestial Mapping What started as a response to a painting by Rebecca Salter at British Art Center, grew into a suite of pictures about the night sky. I am very interested in what happens when a photograph of ordinary, regular, every day stuff takes on a different meaning, looks different and even becomes something else: an image. In each of these grids, ranging from nine to one hundred cells, photographs of surfaces, sometimes objects, usually broad swatches of stuff, were combined to better define what I saw. One might argue that there is no need to take 100 pictures when a single picture should suffice. That is certainly true if the description of that specific 1/125th of a second is the goal. My take is that the longer involvement allows for serendipity and image to enter into the experience both mine and the viewers. These pictures are about an AHA! Moment. I would see some surface and look at it for a while intrigued when the roof or the chrysanthemums or the snow sort of tugged on my coat tail and said “Hey you, pay attention.” I found myself saying, “OK I get it. And got to work. I was dragged along by the work, sort of like being a water skier. How cool. These pictures are less about narrative, and less about time and more about the collective image created by the aggregate of the component parts. The image is that they are not what they seem to be.
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