ASMP — American Society of Media Photographers

Best of 2017 Winner – Tom M. Johnson

By December 31, 2017Best of 2017

Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania
www.tommjohnson.com/

“Pittsburgh Parking Lot Booths and Their Attendants”

Second Place – Series

All images © Tom M. Johnson

“I came upon my first booth while working on a commission for the Heinz Foundation on parking lot structures in the cultural district of downtown Pittsburgh. It was a late December evening and I saw the profile of this lone man isolated in a Parking Lot Booth. It was at twilight when the city lights are at equilibrium with the remaining daylight. It was a beautiful scene of solitude and reminded me of an oeuvre by one of my favorite painters, Edward Hopper.”

ASMP: Can you provide some background on your winning Series?

Tom M. Johnson: I’m always looking for new projects to explore; yet I’m careful to give my precious time and resources something before being sure it fits my criteria. 1. Does the idea truly resonate with me? 2. Is it financially and logistically possible? And 3, will 10 photographs be sufficient to define the project? Before Booths I worked on 3 other projects that were so broad in scope that it was impossible to define the work in 10 photographs. I use the number 10 because that’s the maximum number allowed to enter in to Photo Lucida’s prestigious annual photo contest Critical Mass. So if you can’t define a project with 10 images, there’s a problem.

I came upon my first booth while working on a commission for the Heinz Foundation on parking lot structures in the cultural district of downtown Pittsburgh. It was a late December evening and I saw the profile of this lone man isolated in a Parking Lot Booth. It was at twilight when the city lights are at equilibrium with the remaining daylight. It was a beautiful scene of solitude and reminded me of an oeuvre by one of my favorite painters, Edward Hopper. I had my digital 35mm camera with me, but for this visual it wasn’t the proper format. So I made a picture with my phone, set to square, and filed it into my photo journal and mind.

For about a month after as I drove and walked around lower downtown Pittsburgh, I began seeing all of these other parking lot booths, each with their unique shape and style. After a little research I realized the booths with their attendants fit my criteria, so I commenced upon the project.

ASMP: What type of setting inspires you the most?

TMJ: I suppose like a lot of photographers I’m inspired by texture, and texture is something that usually is earned through time and use. And though I’ve never studied design I am drawn to anything that has an interesting design to it. Finally, I’m a portrait photographer, so I’m always inspired by face that has character.

ASMP: Is there anything unique about your style or approach? 

TMJ: I think everyone is unique, yet for me it took more than 20 years and tons of bad pictures before I developed uniqueness to my work. However, I’m in constant search and pursuit of finding ways to make my images not only stand out but have my signature.

ASMP: Was there anything unique about the type of lighting you used for this image or series? 

TMJ: No, for the majority of images I used available light. However there are few that have just a kick of fill light.

ASMP: How long have you been shooting this type of photography? 

TMJ: Ever since I bought my Hasselblad in 1994

ASMP: What other photographers’ or artists’ work inspires you?

TMJ: Photographers: There are so many, but off the top of my head here are few: Contemporary: Dan Winters, Pari Dukovic, Frank Ockenfels, Nadav Kander, Andy Anderson, and most recently Jack Davison… Classic: Arnold Newman, Irving Penn, Avedon, Joel Sternfeld, Saul Leiter, William Eggleston

Artists: Edward Hopper, Renoir, Matisse, Rembrandt, Jackson Pollock, and so many more.

ASMP: When did you join ASMP and what do you find most valuable about your membership?

TMJ: I recently joined ASMP because after all these years I wanted to become a better business photographer. I am now buried in ASMP’s Professional Business Practices in Photography. After reading every paragraph I scold myself for not joining ASMP years ago.

ASMP: What is the more important relationship you’ve formed through your ASMP membership?

TMJ: The president of Pittsburgh’s ASMP chapter: Elliott Cramer, he’s doing his best to bring better business practices to Pittsburgh’s small market.

ASMP: What kind of gear do you use?

TMJ: For Pittsburgh Parking Lot Booths and Their Attendants I used my favorite “personal projects” camera: Hasselblad 500CM with the standard 80mm lens. The process is now an expensive and a pain in the ass, yet I love the square format and the film palette

ASMP: What do you know now that you wish you had known when you first started taking photos?

TMJ: That’s simple, how to market myself.

ASMP: Is there anything else you’d like to tell us about you and/or your work? 

TMJ: Don’t tell anyone, but I steal from other photographers. (Kidding!)

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