Photographic Alphabet: J is for Jaime Johnson
By Leah Pfenning
“Hope and the future for me are not in lawns and cultivated fields, not in towns and cities, but in the impervious and quaking swamps.”
― Henry David Thoreau, Walking
Jaime Johnson, Tampa-based photographer, chose this quote by Thoreau to introduce her series, Untamed, a visual exploration juxtaposing growth and decay, life and death, set in the bogs of Mississippi. Johnson claims the series "articulates humankind's capacity to decay as a marker of our identity." All of the photographs are tea-stained cyanotypes on Japanese Kitakata paper, a delicate paper that is prone to damage during the printing process, which adds a level fragility to the work. Processing the photographs on Kitakata paper is only successful about 1 out of 10 times. This precariousness highlights the paper’s disposition for deterioration and is reminiscent of organic decomposition occurring in nature.
Untamed follows a feral woman as she collects and repurposes materials of decay: bones, foliage, and sticks. The work meditates over the transitory state of our world and of the earthy beauty of our inevitable passage from being, to bone, to dust. Though Johnson flirts with the tension of life and death, her work doesn't edge toward the macabre, rather it lives comfortably in a place that for lack of a better word, is just realistic. Her process of tea-staining to remove the blue hues, which are inherent within cyanotypes, helps to romanticize the realism by bringing forth warmer, terrestrial colors. A gentle and rocking acceptance of both life and death.
Johnson is a faculty member at the University of Tampa in Photography & Foundations. Her work has been shown in several venues both nationally and abroad and featured in several publications. With a background in science and an insatiable curiosity for the natural world and all the philosophical and existential questions that buzz around us, Johnson approaches photography with truly unique angle. An angle from which presence and absence can meet and become singular, as Johnson so profoundly exercises in Untamed.
See more of Jonhson's work here