February 13, 2008

Award-winning photographer to share his work

by Pete Rosenbery

Jason Johnson

CARBONDALE, Ill. — Nationally recognized award-winning photographer Jason Miccolo Johnson will share his perspectives and his work later this month at Southern Illinois University Carbondale.

Johnson will present a visual call-and-response gallery talk at 7 p.m., Feb. 19, in the Student Center Illinois Room. Admission is free, and the public is invited. The event is part of Black History Month at SIUC. A reception and book signing will follow Johnson's lecture.

Johnson will discuss his 2006 book, "Soul Sanctuary: Images of the African American Worship Experience," and bring numerous PowerPoint images from that work. The book chronicles Johnson's journey to more than 200 predominately black churches in 25 states — including several in the Chicago area — over a 10-year period. Johnson's Web site notes the book is a "day in the life of the black church from early morning preparation on through to the benediction."

Beverly J. Love, a lecturer in the Department of Radio-Television, met Johnson while attending a minority media telecommunications conference in Washington, D.C., where Johnson was working as the event's official photographer. Enthusiastic about his work and the book, she helped arrange Johnson's visit.

The event is not just for students, but also important for the community, she said. His work gives everyone a chance to see people in different processes of prayer and praise. From baptismals, funerals, weddings, passionate preachers and choirs to a stark and vivid portrait of a woman's hands gripping the back of a pew, Johnson's work is history, Love said.

Johnson shot the photographs on film using only available light and no flash. The photos vividly show "our spiritualness, our religion," Love said.

"It's almost like it's sacred, but he respected that when he went in. He went in very quietly and thoughtfully. They invited him in, and they shared with him," she said.

A graduate of Howard University with a degree in journalism, Johnson, 51, received the ArtMaker Award from The HistoryMakers — a non-profit educational organization that archives African Americans' oral histories and events — in 2003. He received the Photographer of the Year Award from The Exposure Group, an African American professional photographers association, in 2000. Johnson served in the U.S. Navy as a photographer, and is a former photo editor at USA Today's Sports Weekly, and production assistant at ABC's "Good Morning America."

The 2008 SIUC Black History Committee, the College of Mass Communication and Media Arts, the Department of Cinema and Photography, the Department of Radio-Television, and the School of Journalism, are sponsoring the event.

For more information, contact Love at 618/453-6994.