Editor’s note: Listen Up is a Q&A featuring locals in the arts and culture community.
This week: Steven Johnson, a photographer from Eau Claire, speaks about his work in the exhibit “Southwestward Ho!”, which is on display through Jan. 28 at the L.E. Phillips Memorial Public Library, 400 Eau Claire St. An artist reception will be at 7 p.m. Thursday at the library.
What work do you have displayed in “Southwestward Ho!”?
This is all black and white photographs of the American Southwest, primarily Utah and a little bit of Colorado and Arizona — from the national parks to some of the national monuments and various places in that part of the country.
How and why did this exhibit come together?
I really enjoyed the time we spent out there. It’s such a different look from what we have here.
The deserts, the mountains; it’s like being on a different planet at times. I wanted to share that experience with folks here.
I decided to go with black and white because, for one thing, I like black and white photography, and the images work with it. I depend on the content or the image itself to make an impression, rather than bright colors.
When were you out west?
We made three trips. The last one was this past September. Our daughter is working in southern Utah so we’ve made trips out to see her and see the country out there. We’ve gone each September for the last three years.
How did you get into photography?
I got my first camera more than 55 years ago.
It started out as a hobby when I was a kid, and then I turned it into a part-time business and then I went full-time with it.
I did weddings, portraits, commercial and industrial. We had a studio. ... Then I decided to spend more time going a different direction with the landscapes. I do some sports as well.
What drew you to landscapes?
It’s a little more relaxing, certainly a lot less stressful than photographing weddings.
I really enjoyed the work of three photographers in particular — Brett Weston, Eliot Porter and Ansel Adams. Their work took me in this direction.
They’ve been something of an inspiration — I don’t know if that’s the right word, but they opened my eyes a little bit more to the world out there.
How did the exhibit at the library come about?
I’ve been part of group shows here before. I’ve had individual shows at Heyde Center (Chippewa Falls) and the Mabel Tainter (Menomonie), but this is my first solo show at the library.
People who have seen what I’ve been shooting said I should see about doing something at library. So I put together a proposal, and here we are.
What do you hope people think about or feel when viewing your work?
One thought would be, “Oh my, I have to go there.” And maybe to appreciate what we have, both in that part of the country as well as what we have here.
I hope they think about the environment and preserving it for future generations.
Would you like to add anything else?
Get in the car, hop on an airplane and go out and see what we have to offer. It’s worth the trip.
I wish I had gotten out there a long time ago.
Each time we go we see new things, and it’s still impressive, even going back to some of the places we’ve been before; it’s a beautiful country.