Local photographer Michelle Johnson celebrates gallery debut

Marianne Caesar
Staff Writer

Local photographer Michelle Johnson will proudly unveil her work on Feb. 13 in her first-ever gallery showing. Taking place at 529 West Chestnut Street, Modern Art will host Johnson’s collection of photography, focusing on humanity’s connection to land through gathering and foraging from 6 to 9 p.m.

(Photo courtesy of Michelle Johnson) Modern Art in Lancaster will host local photographer Michelle Johnson’s collection.
(Photo courtesy of Michelle Johnson) Modern Art in Lancaster will host local photographer Michelle Johnson’s collection.

Intrigued by her interest in family documentation, Johnson’s love for archiving moments started at an early age. It was three years ago that a collection of her close friends came together with the gift of a professional camera, sparking an increase in both her skills and hobby through trial and error learning. It is not uncommon that Johnson wanders among nature with her camera in hand, seeing opportunities for learning and ultimately leading to her upcoming gallery debut.

“My main message is one of rewilding ourselves-to realize that our connection to the land as human beings is unbroken and must still be explored-as well as the act of sharing our knowledge and sustenance with one another,” says Johnson. “I truly adore the food and medicines represented in these photos. My best hope for this show is that the community gains a deeper appreciation for gathering/foraging wild foods and maybe some will attempt to learn more about that.”

Johnson began the project in spring of 2014 as a personal goal for concentration, and was aided through community support using crowdfunding. Preferring “natural light and little-to-no-editing,” Johnson says she is most comfortable using a digital medium though she has a unique love for film. In encouraging a shift from consumerism of convenience to the natural resources available, Johnson’s collection highlights many focuses using outlets of survival forgotten or unknown by many.

“Pros are everything under the sun-literally including time spent out under the sun,” says Johnson. “We access diverse foods that grow locally without exposure to chemicals, save money, grow together as a community, share skills with friends and family, explore with a purpose, get to know our neighborhoods, hedgerows, and woodlands, tend to a deeper connection between ourselves and the land and honestly, it’s a lot of fun!”

(Photo courtesy of Michelle Johnson) Photo from Michelle Johnson's collection at Modern Art.
(Photo courtesy of Michelle Johnson) Photo from Michelle Johnson’s collection at Modern Art.

Not only has her photography helped her become self-educated, but it has opened doors for Johnson within her community. This includes being able to share locations of local resources, methods of food preparation, exploring herbal remedies and communing with others over personally gathered food sources.

Johnson’s gallery also provides community connections to local gardens or “food forests.” Some of the community gardens found locally include Lancaster County Park, Martin Luther King Jr. Community Garden, and Hamilton School. Lighten Up Lancaster County is a group encouraging schools to incorporate community gardens as a way of bettering the health of students. Representative Beth Koser Schwartz explains that 24 of 115 public schools are presently tending their own gardens, and in April there will be a 25th present at Wickersham Elementary School.

“The natural world is the most inspiring thing in my life, and it affects nearly every aspect of me,” says Johnson. “Photography is a way for me to connect to the tiny worlds and ecosystems surrounding me, to learn about them on their own level.”

An environmental activist, Johnson says she would like to have photographed species negatively affected by the dangers of civilization. Other photography themes which Johnson enjoys working with include social justice events and macro nature photography. Johnson looks forward to pursuing future gallery showings, exploring abandoned areas such as amusement parks, prisons and mills among other themes. For further interest in her work, individuals may view her art at www.facebook.com/michellejohnsenphotography and www.michellejphotography.wordpress.com.