By Whitney Johnson, Director of Visual and Immersive Experiences
You might think that photographers swoop in, shoot an assignment, get what they want, send it to their editors, and move on.
You haven’t met Nat Geo’s Lynn Johnson.
Johnson maintains connections with many of the people she photographs, often for years. She’s been taking pictures for the past six years of young people, like Lily Rowland (above), who have been treated with CBD or cannabis derivatives to ease violent seizures, epilepsy, or optic pathway glioma.
“Every story I do is emotionally charged, because I try to spend actual time with people,” Johnson tells my colleague David Beard. “You get connected to people. It’s one of the more difficult things to stay in touch, but it’s important, because you sort of belong to each other in a unique way.”
Johnson says acknowledging such connections were rare when she started out in the mid-1970s. “Everybody else, they would shoot the assignment and move on. I couldn’t do that.”
She didn’t see other photographers openly caring about the subjects, or processing their lives or situations, even if dire. “They would never admit that it got under their skin. They needed to be a tough guy. I needed to be a tough guy, too. It took me years to realize that I needed to process this, too.”
Johnson is far from alone. Ask Ryan Kelly, whose 2017 photograph of a speeding car toppling a male protester at the far-right rally in Charlottesville, Virginia won the Pulitzer Prize. Nearly a year later, Kelly took photographs at the wedding of that injured protester, Marcus Martin, and his fiancee, Marissa Blair, whom Martin had pushed away from the car.
Boston Globe photographer John Tlumacki sought forgiveness when he met with Nicole Gross, the runner he captured, legs peppered with shrapnel, as bombs went off at the finish line of the 2013 Boston Marathon. “There was no way to get to you. I’m not trained. I’m not an EMT,” Tlumacki told Gross at her rehab hospital a month later.
Gross just embraced him. Overwhelmed, Tlumacki gave her his marathon credentials and let her take a picture of Boston Harbor with the camera he had used.
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Your Instagram photo of the day
Trampoline time: When the weather breaks, the backyard trampoline gets a workout at the Werk family’s backyard in Hays, Montana. The Werks, members of the Aaniiih tribe, live and ranch along the edge of an ambitious conservation project in central Montana to, among other things, restore the bison herds. The Werk family, whose ancestors lived on this land for tens of thousands of years before being forcibly pushed off, are wary of outsiders taking over but thankful to see the return of the bison.
Subscriber exclusive: Two visions collide amid push to restore Montana plain
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Today in a minute
Beyond Mandela and apartheid: Wading through themes of history and land, memory and spirituality, Santu Mofokeng shaped the course of South African photography. Mofokeng, who died in January, “resisted easy categorization, creating an oeuvre that tackled monumental topics while retaining a sense of fluidity and poetry,” writes Oluremi C. Onabanjo for The New Yorker.
Award-winners: A group dedicated to fighting the trade in illegal wildlife won the Power of Photography Award at last week’s Amateur Photographer Awards. The prize went to the collective Photographers Against Wildlife Crime, which has produced a book and held exhibitions to show Chinese consumers the cost of the trade. Nat Geo photographers Brent Stirton, Michael ‘Nick’ Nichols, Brian Skerry, Tim Laman, and Steve Winter were among the contributors to the campaign.
Let’s play Twister, let’s play Risk: There’s something hypnotic about Michael Jang’s photographs of his family from the 1970s, from downtime in a wood-paneled rec room to gardening at night. At the cusp of a four-decade career as a documentary photographer, Jang hung out with his Aunt Lucy, Uncle Monroe, cousins Chris and Cynthia, and their hounds, two pet bunnies, and a giant koi carp. The works have since been exhibited in museums and are in a book, the Washington Post writes.
New move. For years, Autumn de Wilde has been a top celebrity photographer. In directing her first movie, the just-released adaptation of Jane Austen's Emma, de Wilde calmed her subjects the way she did on photo shoots and later on music videos, she told the Los Angeles Times. Her "precise aesthetic is a perfect match," The Atlantic said in its review.
Grace: Longtime photographer and photo and digital editor Mark Hinojosa, who died last week, innovated at the Chicago Tribune, Detroit News, and in his last post, as a journalism prof at the University of Missouri. He helped legions of visual journalists. When he left Detroit in 2015, he urged colleagues to view the city through a compassionate but unblinking eye. "You will find the beauty in its revival, but not be blinded by the radiance of the new," he wrote. "You will continue to fight for the entire city, rich and poor alike."
Overheard at Nat Geo
Commuting though oceans: Exhibits celebrating the world's fragile coral reefs (above) greet passengers walking through four train stations in southern France. An Immersion at the Heart of Coral, images by Nat Geo photographer David Doubilet, is running through April 15 in Toulon, Marseille, Cannes, and Nice.
See: ‘We may be making pictures of a time and a place that in the next two generations may not exist anymore'
The big takeaway
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One last glimpse
Rough going: The image looks like something from the 19th century, but it is actually a century later in the Himalayas. Photographer Volkmar Wentzel was retracing a journey by writer Enaskhi Bhavnai to the mountainous Kashmiri region of Ladakh for the May 1951 National Geographic magazine. “Our trip would mean a trek of 500 miles on horseback and on foot over ground completely alien to us,” wrote Bhavnai, who traveled with her husband, son, and a friend.
Ladakh in 2018: Photos from a mystical 'moonland'