Michael Johnson>ISM Interviews A-L>ISM Interviews A-L, Segment 24


duration 17:20
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Michael spends half of his time as a professional artist specializing in photography of landscape. He learned from a kid at school in the darkroom, yearbook. Otherwise self-trained. Likes the darkroom work because it is dark, peaceful. He never thought of it as a business, but something he did. Always made a darkroom. Was not inspired at college; had a very high draft number (in the 1970s), so he left school and found a job with a photography company; lots of mechanical problems, such as how to photograph silverware, glass, fashion. Worked for a year, then started his own business. Had taken courses in art history. Ansell Adams, Edward Weston were popular. He hit on doing reproductions for museums with minimal equipment. When moved to his current home, traveled to Chicago, then built home business. Built up a portfolio of work to show to galleries for representation. Storms are inspirational - as he travels, he sees things - like 17th century Dutch landscape painters like the Ruysdaels. Image has to come to a resolve at the end. Light is the magic that makes it elegant. Lots of barn and granary interiors with dusty light. Now we have bean harvest, light corn, easier to make the space a composition. Looks for sky effects. It's hard to find perfect images. He remembers possible areas to film, and waits for the right conditions to return there and find something new. Originally, in the 1970s, black and white was considered to be the standard; colors were fugitive. His black and white tones last forever. Also less expensive than color at the scale he works (24x36 format). Black and white can make a clearer abstract statement. Color can distract from the image, the lines, the patterns. Uses a 5x7 inch wooden view camera on a ground glass plate (seen upside down). Image is projected onto a flat film. Tries to expand or contract tone range. As a buyer of a work of art, the piece has to work visually. Rarely a specific place, but looking for an image that is a good design. Must be well printed (not necessarily sharp). Sometimes he makes painterly images.