Ohio University Libraries is excited to highlight the work of notable photojournalist and former Ohio University Knight Fellow Lynn Johnson and debut a new way of sharing the Libraries’ donor publication! Check out the new online issue of the “Gatherings Spotlight: The Lynn Johnson Collection,” on the Libraries’ website.
The Lynn Johnson Collection has been one of the cornerstones of University Libraries’ Documentary Photography Archive since it was donated by Johnson herself in 2011. Donated in the original filing cabinets where Johnson kept and organized her work, the collection includes not only photos, but working drafts, handwritten notes and other personal commentaries by Johnson.
For this end-of-year issue of the Gatherings Spotlight, some of the photographs from the Lynn Johnson Collection and pictures from her personal collection are showcased in an all-new online format, which increases the accessibility of the issue to users.
The publication also includes the original captions for some photos, additional information about each project, and quotes from a May 2021 interview with Johnson, in which she talks about her 40+ years as a female in the (mostly) male-dominated field of photojournalism.
“When I started as a photographer 40 years ago or so, the lines and labels that designated the kind of photographer one is were well defined and people tended to stay inside the lines,” she said. “Today, that is changing, which I think is good.”
Johnson has traveled all over the world for her career, and she reminisced while looking at some of her older work for this Gatherings Spotlight, calling back to the challenges of getting into places like Russian police stations or homes and classrooms in China to take photographs.
She once traveled to China, for example, to photograph the early stages of construction of the Three Gorges Dam on the Yangtze River. On assignment for LIFE Magazine, one of the pictures Johnson took was published with the caption: “Though there is some heavy earthmoving equipment, the Chinese are doing this project as they have done every great project in their history. They are using the resource most abundant, the sweat and blood of the common ‘man’…”
In the May 2021 interview, Johnson also spoke about the power that images can have and what it means to her to be a documentary photographer.
“I think of myself as a journalist with a camera, a documentary photographer,” she said, “and as a person who is increasingly interested in photography and photographic projects that live on the spectrum of visual storytelling from pure documentary work, to work created with an activist intention.”
Johnson’s work covers the resilience, courage and innovation of human beings by capturing the everyday moments of ordinary people. Her career spans from the 1970s to the present and has been published in the Pittsburgh Press, LIFE Magazine, Sports Illustrated and National Geographic, among other publications.
“[Some of] these stories were done many, many years ago, when I was a young photographer,” Johnson said. “But I do not think much has changed in terms of how I love to be in the presence of strong human emotions and complicated human lives.”
The Lynn Johnson Collection at the Libraries is incredibly diverse and made up of thousands of items. Whether studying photojournalism or simply interested in Johnson’s work, those in the OHIO community and beyond can enjoy a snapshot of her photographs in this new issue of the Gatherings Spotlight. The collection will likely appeal to anyone, whether they are interested in political and social movements from the 1970s to now, or interested in the everyday lives of people around the world.