Photos tell a story.
Good photographers are the artists behind those stories.
Harry Johnson of Redwood Falls is one such photographer, and the public has the chance now and through the end of July to view his work at the Redwood Falls Public Library where he is being featured.
Tatanka Arts continues to provide opportunities for local artists to show off their talents through shows like Johnson’s helping to expose them to a broader audience.
“Elaine Hagen (of Tatanka Arts) asked me in March if I wanted to do a show,” Johnson said. “I said ‘sure.’”
Then the work began for Johnson as he pored through a lifetime of work to find examples of his work, which he then framed for the exhibit.
For Johnson exposure to the world of photography started when he was young, but he really developed a more serious focus on it when he was in his late teens.
“I was 19 or so when I bought my first camera,” said Johnson, adding it was a “cheap Kodak” but it served him very well.
Over the years, Johnson said he has tried out a number of different camera brands from Nikon and Pentax to Canon. His first more serious camera was a Leica IIIf.
“I saved money to buy it,” he said, adding he thinks back then it would have cost him about $300.
Johnson said he really appreciated that camera, adding it was probably 10 years ago when he finally stopped using it, adding the demise of film meant making the full transition to digital photography.
Spending his early years in Montana, Johnson was actually living in California when his interest in photography began to increase.
“I took a lot of landscape (photos) and beach scenes ” said Johnson, adding he still enjoys taking those.
Then Johnson joined the Marines, and through that opportunity he got to see many more places and to shoot lots more photographs. In the Marines, he served as a journalist.
As a 1954 high-school graduate, Johnson said his parents wanted him to go to college, but he knew he was not ready for that, and so he opted to serve his country.
Interestingly, in his journalistic role Johnson spent lots of time writing stories, but he never was called on to serve as a photographer.
“I did a lot of what you would call ‘Joe Blow’ stories,” said Johnson, adding those hometown stories were sent to local papers for publication.
Having enlisted in 1956, Johnson wrapped up his military stint in January 1960.
As a Marine writer, Johnson said he spent a lot of time with an artillery unit as well as on the flight line, and, while those who were working had ear protection, he did not, and he believes his hearing is diminished because of it.
Following the Marines, Johnson went to college and earned degrees in zoology and microbiology, and he got a job working at UCLA. As a research technician, Johnson was working in his field of study, adding he continued in that role for nine years.
Then Johnson got the bug to go back to school.
“I wanted to be a high-school biology teacher,” he said, adding his first job in education was in south central Los Angeles.
That is where he was exposed to a different world in teaching – special education – and was able to move to rural California and continued working.
“That was a good area for photography,” said Johnson, adding he continued in education for nine years.
He also did plenty of rock climbing giving him the opportunity to see and capture some very beautiful scenery along the northern coast of California as well as in Oregon.
Johnson said photographing areas in Yosemite and Glacier national parks, have always been some of his favorite places, adding, however, one place he really has appreciated is a little closer to home today. He loves taking photos in Ramsey Park.
Johnson said he met his wife, Joyce, in the 80s, and the two of them built their dream home in Montana.
Naturally, the scenery there leant itself well to his hobby, and during their married life the two have traveled extensively providing him the opportunity to continue to pursue his hobby in new and exciting places.
Johnson said what was great about that home in Montana is because they built it themselves he was able to include an area for his photography, including his own dark room.
No, said Johnson, he never received any formal education in photography, adding much of what he has learned he gained through personal experiences as well as being able to read about them in magazines he picked up.
During a trip into Canada in a Volkswagen camper, the Johnsons met a group of people from Europe, including two men and two women who were biking from northernmost Canada all the way south to Argentina. The couple hit it off so well with them that they told them when they reached California to look them up.
Having moved back to California, Johnson said quite a while after that first encounter, Joyce, who was working as a librarian, was approached by a woman who introduced herself as one of the people they had met in Canada. The woman was now traveling alone, as the men had moved along at a faster pace and the other woman on the trek had met and fallen in love.
The woman stayed with the Johnsons for three weeks. She invited them to visit her one day in her home country of Switzerland. They did. There are photos on display from that trip.
Each of the photos Johnson has on display at the library has its own story, whether it is those of his grandparents or those from Ramsey Falls.
In 1998, Johnson said he began making the transition to digital photography, as the house they were living in then did not provide the space for a dark room.
Over the years, Johnson has had several of his photographs published, he has won awards for some of them and he has been part of clubs that allowed him the chance to display his work.
The Johnsons moved to Redwood Falls in 2007, and they have enjoyed life in small-town Minnesota.
Ever the learner, Johnson said he appreciates the chance to take classes, adding he has enjoyed the chance to take part in local programs that are offered by Molly Schweinfurter.
Carrying an Olympus digital camera today, Johnson still enjoys getting out and capturing moments and places, and as long as he is able that will continue.