“It is an addiction… to see the incredible beauty and desperate circumstances that people are able to survive in.” — Lynn Johnson

Lynn Johnson first recognized the extraordinary power of photography huddled in her school library as a child, looking through the Farm Security Administration’s iconic photographs of the Great Depression. She remembers feeling a physical connection to those people’s lives and has strived to create that again and again through her own photography. From the impact of hate crimes in America, to the lives of Long Island fishermen, to a family struggling with AIDS,  she has had the ability to step aside and allow her subjects to tell their story through her. “It’s not really about me, it’s hopefully never about me. It’s hopefully about them and about what they have to teach the world,” said Johnson. Her work has won numerous awards including seven Golden Quills for Photojournalism, four World Press Photography Awards, the Robert F. Kennedy Journalism Award for Outstanding Coverage of the Disadvantaged, and Picture of the Year Award from the National Press Photographer Association.—Spencer Bakalar, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill

This video portrait was produced by National Geographic magazine in partnership with the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill. It is part of an ongoing series of conversations with the photographers of the magazine, exploring the power of photography and why this life of imagemaking suits them so well. Learn more about the making of the series and watch the full trailer here.

Follow Lynn Johnson on her website.

Video Production Credits
Photographer: Lynn Johnson
Producers: Pamela Chen, NGM
Chad A. Stevens, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
Associate Producer: Elyse Lipman, NGM
Editors: Spencer Bakalar, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
Camera and Sound: Spencer Millsap, NGM, Shannon Sanders, NGM

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