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About Jason Miccolo Johnson

What do Thurgood Marshall, Oprah Winfrey, Nelson Mandela, Muhammad Ali, Halle Berry, seven U.S. presidents, and 15 heads of state have in common? They all have been photographed by Jason Miccolo Johnson.

Photographs by Johnson have been included in five exhibitions and five books produced by the Smithsonian Institution. He has contributed photos to 45 books, four films, a music video, and over 70 magazines. In 2006, Johnson published his first book, Soul Sanctuary: Images of the African American Worship Experience (foreword by Gordon Parks). Fifty of those photographs are now in the permanent collection of the Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture.

Historic events photographed by Johnson include the inauguration of L. Douglas Wilder (the first Black governor since Reconstruction), Senator Strom Thurmond swearing in the first Black female U.S. Senator, five presidential inaugurations, the Million Man March, Clarence Thomas’s Supreme Court confirmation hearing, and the 50th anniversary of the March on Washington.

Johnson documented the opening of the Smithsonian National Museum of the American Indian and was the official photographer for the 50th anniversary of N.A.T.O. (North Atlantic Treaty Organization) and the 50th anniversary of the United Negro College Fund. He also photographed the 50th anniversary of SNCC (Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee).

From 2015-2022, Johnson taught in the Journalism and Mass Communications department at Savannah State University and served as the university’s photographer. In 2021, he arranged for 16 journalism students to cover the 100 Pastors’ Rally at the Ahmaud Arbery murder trial in Brunswick, Georgia then later organized a photography exhibition. In 2016, he and several professors took 15 students to the opening of the Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture. And in 2015, he took two SSU students to the Congressional Black Caucus Annual Legislative Weekend where they got to photograph President Obama.

Johnson’s value extends beyond teaching and photography. He is a visionary, prolific organizer, and passionate philanthropist. In 2002, he organized the largest gathering of professional Black photographers in history (90) to celebrate Gordon Parks on his 90th birthday. In 1997, he planned and organized the 40th anniversary of his alma mater, Carver High School in Memphis, Tennessee, the biggest event in the school’s history. Johnson established the African American Photographers Association in 1996, served five years as its president, and launched its annual awards gala honoring distinguished Black photographers.

Jason Miccolo JohnsonAs a philanthropist, Johnson donated $5500 to pay for a custom headstone in Detroit for legendary Motown bassist and “Funk Brother,” James Jamerson. He established a $2500 scholarship at Savannah State in the name of a student who was killed in an auto accident during a hurricane evacuation. Johnson has raised over $100,000 for schools, scholarships, and arts organizations, including $2500 for the Duke Ellington School of the Arts in Washington, DC. He once gave $1600 – all in hundred-dollar bills – to a student at Benjamin Banneker High School in Washington, DC for scoring a perfect 1600 on the SAT!

Before Johnson embarked on his remarkable journey as an award-winning photographer, he was a U.S. Navy photographer and the photo lab director at the largest newspaper in the country, USA Today. In addition to supervising a staff of four, he designed darkrooms and printed pictures for USA Today at major sporting events world-wide. Events such as the 1988 Winter and Summer Olympics in Calgary and Seoul respectively, 1987 World Series, 1987 Pan American Games, 1986 Super Bowl, and the 1987 and 1988 NCAA Men’s Final Four.

While a journalism student at Howard University, Johnson interned at ABC Network News under bureau chief Carl Bernstein and worked on every news show produced in Washington, DC including Nightline, World News Tonight, and Good Morning America. He later worked at The Shaw Group advertising agency in Memphis and shot freelance assignments for Black Enterprise, Financial World, Glamour, Washingtonian, American Visions, Ebony, and Jet magazines. It was for Jet that he covered the Clarence Thomas Supreme Court confirmation hearings in 1991.

Johnson has appeared on CNN, NPR, C-SPAN Book TV, and Radio One. He has given talks at the Library of Congress, Virginia Museum of Fine Arts, Union Theological Seminary, Scarritt Bennett Center, and the Chrysler Museum. Johnson is a recipient of an ArtMaker Award from the HistoryMakers, a Distinguished Alumni Award from Howard University, and Photographer of the Year Award from the Exposure Group. Since 1990, he has been the official photographer for the National Association of Black Journalists.

In 1994, Johnson photographed the entirety of historic Georgia Avenue in Washington, DC which led to his first major solo exhibition, Georgia Avenue on my Mind, in the Blackburn Center Gallery at Howard University. The exhibition documented the people, businesses, and architecture along Georgia Avenue. He has had solo exhibitions at the Chrysler Museum in Norfolk, National Civil Rights Museum in Memphis, Charles H. Wright Museum in Detroit, and the Leica Gallery in Washington, DC.

Jason Miccolo JohnsonJohnson currently lives in Savannah, Georgia where he continues to add to his extensive archive of images. Two recent Smithsonian books – Musical Crossroads and Movements, Motions, Moments – feature 10 of Johnson’s photographs. His third solo photography book, LEGENDS of our LIFETIME: 75 Black Men Who Influenced America, is expected to be completed soon.

Media and speaking inquiries can be made by emailing

Photo Credits in Films


  • Guest Who (Bernie Mac and Ashton Kutcher) [Columbia Pictures]


  • The Black Godfather: The Clarence Avant Story [Netflix]
  • Boss: The Black Experience in Business [WNET]
  • W.E.B. DuBois: A Biography in Four Voices [The Scribe]