Joe Johnson received his MFA from the Massachusetts College of Art (Boston, MA) in 2004 and his BFA from the San Francisco Art Institute (San Francisco, CA). His work has been shown in group shows at the Caro D'Offay Gallery (Chicago, IL), Bonni Benrubi Gallery (New York, NY), and the Laconia Gallery (Boston, MA), among others. In addition, he has been juried into the Griffin Museum of Photography's annual exhibition (Winchester, MA) by Andy Grundberg and the Photographic Center Northwest's Annual Photographic Competition (Seattle, WA) by Roy Flukinger.  Johnson's work is featured in this year's highly-anticipated DeCordova Annual at the DeCordova Museum of Art and Sculpture Park in Lincoln, MA (April 29 – August 20, 2006).  Johnson taught photography at Emerson College (Boston, MA) and recently accepted a position at Bowling Green State University (Bowling Green, OH).

Featured online are selections from his ongoing series of night photographs of cities as well as a series focusing on the Colonial Theatre in Pittsfield, MA. Johnson's City Pictures are taken at night with ambient exterior and interior lights as the only source of illumination. His unique perspective on the urban concentration of people and architecture makes us feel as if we were peering or falling into someone else's space, witnessing a private, yet somehow shared, domestic drama. In the Colonial images, he documents a once-grand theater before its restoration in a series of subtly composed images of the interiors and found ephemera. Built in 1903 and once host to legendary vaudeville performers, the Colonial will open to the public in Summer 2006; Johnson hopes to continue this important project.

- Leslie K. Brown, PRC Curator

Click here for Joe Johnson's web site
Click here for information on the DeCordova Annual


"City Pictures" and
"Colonial Theater "

City Pictures
I'm standing on the roof of this building above Manhattan's Upper West Side, looking east through a camera, and it hits me…within this single frame, by the sum of the lit windows alone, I can represent the entire population of my hometown in Kansas.

For me this realization underlined an intriguing creative problem: How do I make pictures of architecture that have less to do with buildings and more to do with people? I noticed that particularly after dark, structures bore a relationship to the living and breathing organisms within, an accumulation of individual lives stacked upon one another. This shift in my perception of space has motivated this work.

An elevated view allowed me to access a greater variety of picture possibilities; it also gave the pictures this ambiguous and disorienting sense of where one might stand. Thus I can situate the city within a fictive context, an elaborate stage set where both shared and individual experience is performed.

Colonial Theater
These photographs of the Colonial Theater in Pittsfield, MA show a space undergoing restoration. Opening in September of 1903, The Colonial was a preeminent Vaudeville playhouse and concert venue in the early 20th century, hosting an array of events from Rachmaninoff to Will Rogers. Its architect, J.B. McElfatrick, designed 350 such theaters around the country. Today the Colonial is one of a dozen surviving theaters designed by McElfatrick.

The restoration has become a symbol for the revitalization of the community of Pittsfield. The work here is really a vignette of what I hope to be an extended project documenting the care and repair of an important historical and cultural site.

- Joe Johnson



Click on each image for larger version and caption.

City Pictures

Colonial Theater

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