Lynn Johnson Interactive Display Highlights Photography Process – OHIO University Libraries

Lynn Johnson Interactive Display Highlights Photography Process

Lexi Browning/Ohio University Libraries
Lynn Johnson Collection
Date: Mid-20th Century – present
Name of Donor: Lynn Johnson
Description: Lynn Johnson is a world-renowned photojournalist and documentarian. The collection includes negatives, transparencies, notes and business materials and folders of works separated by publication. Johnson continues to add to the collection.

Many photography exhibits highlight the final version—pristine, edited and focused images. The Libraries’ new interactive display “Lynn Johnson: The Photographer’s Process,” will focus on just the opposite—all the demanding work and dedication that goes into photojournalism.

Beginning Oct. 2, the public is invited to the fourth floor of Alden Library to see original and reproduction negatives, slides and other materials from Lynn Johnson’s collection. Johnson, a world-renowned photojournalist and OHIO alumna, has worked for publications such as National Geographic, Life and Sports Illustrated.

“…the idea inspiring this display, or experience, is interactivity,” said Miriam Intrator, a special collections librarian who curates the collection Johnson donated to the Libraries. “It is very important to Lynn, in terms of having her collection housed here, that students physically interact with the materials.”

Sara Harrington, head of arts and archives, said the interactive display highlights process orientation—a working version—not product orientation—the final version.

“It was Lynn’s desire for students, particularly photography students, but truly all students, to have an understanding about what that process has looked like over the years,” she said. “Our collection represents that, and we want to share that richness. So, while in the past, we have had visually based exhibits, drawing from themes that occur in her work, this is a process-based exhibit.”

The display will run until the end of the fall semester and can be found near Alden’s fourth floor 1951 Lounge.  It includes reproductions of original negatives, slides and proofs for visitors to interact with, as well as a whiteboard, where people can share their reactions and thoughts.

Intrator said the pieces chosen represent the challenges Johnson overcame to create award-winning photographs.

“…I think it can be useful for students to see how intensive the process can be, how difficult it is to get to the final picture,” she said. “[Lynn] might have taken 100 pictures of the same thing, and in the end one image was published.   Any student, professor or researcher, anyone really, can relate to the struggle to create that ‘perfect’ final product, but the process is usually very messy. That doesn’t get shown very much, and that is part of what we are hoping to do.”

While there will not be a formal launch event for the display, Johnson will visit OHIO during Homecoming to receive a University medal of merit, which honors outstanding alumni. Additionally, she will speak to visual communications students.

Both Intrator and Harrington emphasized that the collection has something to offer for all areas of study.

“I think her work recognizes and celebrates our shared humanity,” said Harrington. “…when I am looking at her work, I may have nothing in common on the surface with the people who are represented in the work, but yet I have an understanding of how my life connects to their [lives], and I can feel the significance of their struggles.”

Intrator added that those who visit the interactive display will recognize the significance of Johnson’s work.

“…she is this incredibly empathetic, very intuitive person. She picks up right away on things that most of us would not,” said Intrator. “And she sees in a way that most of us do not. Both that emotional connection and visual connection is reflected in her photography.”