Dispatches from a Distant America

It’s often easy for me to get caught up in the ills of the Internet. So much so, that I forget about its benefits. The other day, however, I was reminded of one of the reasons I repeatedly return to this glowing screen with a sense of hope. It’s because of random encounters with interesting people. People who, before the Internet, I may have never met. For example, last week I received a note from a man named Robert M. Johnson, a 59-year-old street photographer originally from Youngstown, Oh (now living in Holden, Ma). He sent me a link to his photographs. I was hooked.

“My generation was inundated with still images all of our lives. Life magazine, Look Magazine, and tons of photo books,” he told me. “I taught myself photography at our local library. Very little TV back in the day. I wanted to do pretty color pics and look where I ended up.” Robert says that because where he ended up was far grittier. Just look at his photographs. What I like is how they tell these fascinating, truncated stories. Robert took these photos as he passed strangers on the street; sat with them in diners; or spotted them walking beneath darkened underpasses. Looking at his photos is like walking through a neighborhood for the first time. You see houses, front yards, and kids playing. Look a little closer though, and you see the issues of the day lingering in the fold.

This specific set I’ve pulled from was taken in the mid to late 1970s, and some recurrent themes are present: religion, energy, and politics. It’s like the distant echo of today. What’s the saying? The more things change, the more they stay the same get fucked up over time.

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  • http://www.wemakechanges.com/?p=3574 Robert M. Johnson: Street Photography

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