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Black History Month: Photographer Jason Johnson

By Dawn Baker

Published: Feb. 28, 2023 at 4:14 PM EST|Updated: Feb. 28, 2023 at 5:39 PM EST

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SAVANNAH, Ga. (WTOC) – As we celebrate Black History Month, we’re introducing you to Jason Johnson.

He has spent a lifetime capturing history with his unforgettable photographs around the world. His love of photography began when he was just 11 years old. His award winning career was inspired by a classic children’s toy the view master that allows us to see the world through pictures without leaving our homes.

“And that, just so impressed me with it. The beauty, the color, but also the travel all around the world where these images came from. So I wanted to take pictures, and I wanted to travel.”

Jason Johnson did all of that and more first as a Navy photographer then by working at USA Today, but he says it was attending Howard University that changed his life.

” I was in Washington, DC in the center of everything. And number two, all the people who was who’s who in black America, came to Howard’s campus. That’s when I met Gordon Parks for the first time in 1980. And that’s why I interviewed James Baldwin.”

His work speaks for itself.

“Photographing Thurgood Marshall in his chambers and Supreme Court, along with Dr. Dorothy Height, who’s head of the Council, the National Council Negro women at that time, and together they represented 82 years, plus 78 years- . 150 years of civil rights history. Right there in front of me, that was one of my biggest moments. And now I’m slated to donate two of those pictures to go into the Supreme Court. “

In fact Johnson developed such a stellar reputation, the Smithsonian selected 50 of his photographs to feature in 5 of their books. Johnson has also traveled the world taking pictures capturing history.

“Never in my lifetime, would I have ever dreamed of meeting and photographing Princess Diana, or photographing Mikhail Gorbachev or John Bertrand Aristide the president of Haiti, and 15 other heads of state. But being in the right place at the right time in Washington DC, was it I mean, that was the epitome. So that led me to photograph six US presidents and Congress, seven inaugurations. “

Johnson’s proudest accomplishment was organizing, 90 professional photographers to honor Gordon Parks on his 90 th birthday. Parks was , one of the greatest photographers of the 20th century.

“When he got out of the limo. He threw his hands in the air, and it was like he was in heaven, that is beautiful. It was a test for me to give back to the person who had mentored me from a far.”

By sharing his story this Black History Month, Johnson, hopes it will inspire young people to never give up.

″I mean, when I was picking cotton and chopping cotton in Missouri, you couldn’t pay me $10,000, to convince me that one day I will be doing photography at the White House, or covering Supreme Court confirmation hearings, or going to Tokyo or Cuba, or Canada for a Olympics, and meeting Olympians. I mean, it was just farthest from my imagination. I never dreamed this big. So you can never count out what your future is. Your soul is bigger than your surroundings.”

Jason Johnson has taken pictures of just about everyone who’s tops in their field in every industry for the last 50 years while giving back to the community through student scholarships and investing in businesses.

Click here for Jason Johnson’s website.

Copyright 2023 WTOC. All rights reserved.

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