Photographer seeks to connect the dots

Artist says he relies on digital technology to see the familiar in surprising ways.

January 12, 2011|By Hripsime Moskovian, Special to the Valley Sun
(Raul Roa/Staff…)

Larre Johnson's photography is on display at Penelope's Café, showcasing pieces that are the result of his travels and observations of the world around him. However, it is his day job that plays a pivotal role in how Johnson views his surroundings.

"My full-time day job is as a partner in an advertising agency called Big Honkin' Ideas. We've been in business for 15 years," Johnson said. "I've been a writer over the years, working on television, radio and print. A lot of commercial photography is involved."

Johnson's most well-known project was a storyboard for a commercial for the Partnership for a Drug-Free America of an egg on a frying pan with the now-famous line: "This is your brain on drugs."

Johnson said his photography skills blossomed after he purchased a digital camera. And, when his mother-in-law moved to France 12 years ago, he was afforded a greater opportunity to shoot abroad.


"My photography isn't from a technical aspect," he said. "I love to shoot with existing light. I try to find the light that I like, shoot samples and move around the subject to see what I can get. Several of the shots are in the Louvre in Paris, where you get some of the best lighting because they're set up by professionals to highlight the subject."

Growing up in Columbia, Mo., Johnson studied English literature and journalism in advertising at the University of Missouri. "Whenever I teach my advertising classes, I talk about the importance of a liberal arts education because I incorporate my critical thinking of how I break stuff down," He said.

Johnson applies the same critical thinking toward his photography. "I'm sort of curious if it's true that a picture is worth a thousand words. A camera is more immediate than writing. With photography, you can find the light and composition; look at familiar things and capture them in a way that is surprising and unfamiliar," he explained.

Johnson put his thoughts into practice when he photographed the Eiffel Tower, "from the passenger seat of a cab with the window rolled down. I had no idea I was going to get that picture.

"There is always an element of serendipity because the camera reads light differently than what you might see with you eye," he said. "Technology has allowed me to do something I've been interested in for a long time because a computer can adjust light or sharpen a picture."

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