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COVID Craft: Taking a Deep Dive

This is the second installment in our COVID Craft series, and this post will focus on photography! We are starring one of our local artists in hopes of exploring more of what it means for us to come out of the pandemic. As we look through some of the challenges our artists faced, we can be grateful for where we are now and look constantly towards a peaceful future.

John Johnson is an underwater and aerial photographer.

We call him and he picks up jovially, cracking a couple jokes while we pull our notes in order. As we ask him questions, we realize there was really no need to work at this formally, John is free-spirited and incredibly friendly, listening carefully so he can answer us thoughtfully. He gets into his journey from a spear fisherman with a love of cameras and the sea to a professional who swims with dolphins and whales all around the world. He bought the first digital camera when it first came out, inspired by his professional photographer friends, and at first, simply took pictures out of his love for the sea. While he was in Japan, he was able to print out his pictures for the first time, and a friend advised him to sell them.

John shows us a different side of working as an artist. He does it as a side job; he tells us that this is a common thing, having a day job. Working around a full time job is difficult, since one needs to go to craft fairs and events in order to show off one’s work. Since covid shut everything down, the venues are unavailable and local galleries were shut down. His work was greatly affected by this: he hasn’t been able to schedule any flights for photography shoots and he is considering a different approach, pulling out of in-person events. Some of the craft fairs are virtual now, but John explains to us how challenging it is to sell online. Sales online are usually made by directing customers to a website after they’ve wandered over at an event. Forming a business online requires an incredible amount of work, much more than one would think, and it isn’t always possible. Like many artists, he relies on galleries to promote his work in addition to the craft fairs. The pandemic was hard on all of us and exhibiting art becomes a full-time job.

He emphatically talks about how taking pictures for himself and taking them for others has changed his experience. He always goes diving with his camera these days, for better or worse. Throughout our conversation his love of the ocean was continually made clear; for instance, one of the bright sides of the covid disaster for him was how empty the beaches were. He worries that looking through a lens detracts from his joy being in the sea, but he is happy that he gets to do what he loves and gets to share his experiences under the water. He has us laughing aloud when he complains that people need to understand how cool whales are— he tells amazing stories of his visit to Tahiti to swim with them—and is utterly baffled at how beloved his pictures of turtles are. We end up defending the cuteness of turtles and how his pictures capture how stunning they are, but he is adamant that dolphins are the best ever. We laugh helplessly. He has a love of life that shows through in everything he does; we think his pictures can prove our sentiments.

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