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Photographs from Mexico, Cameroon and Nicaragua
Stella Johnson

February 27 - May 7, 2010
Artist's Talk and Opening Reception: February 27, 5:00-7:00pm

Kakabila, Nicaragua 2003
"Stella Johnson's photographs are poems weighted with grace, dignity and compassion. From the villages in Mexico, Stella Johnson has taken her particular vision to villages in Africa and Central America and illustrated the fact that even in the most isolated and distant of communities people are individuals and not generic types. In each of these villages we see people often performing the same simple tasks, yet in Stella's hands each image is a thing unto itself because of her respect for the individual and specific moment."
—Constantine Manos

Stella Johnson is both a passionate photographer and compassionate observer of simple rural life in Africa and Central America. Living with the people that she photographs, Johnson is able to cross the line to capture the many beautiful and intimate moments that make up ordinary situations; moments that allow us inside the lives of the people and of daily village life. Complex, layered and eloquent portraits rendered in a sumptuous palette of black and white bring us a life-affirming sense of joy and wonder at so many of life’s simple experiences. Love, family, dignity, community and respect ring through her luminous images.

"Villages seen down dusty roads: difficult to reach physically, and once there, difficult to enter and fully understand. Living off the land, daily tasks take over: hauling the water from the well, getting firewood. No flick of the switch. In my work, I live alongside the people and photograph moments of their lives to add to the collective memory. My Greek grandmothers were raised in villages like these. These are my roots and in making these photographs I find my home. My ancestry informs my work.

In 1987, I went to Mexico to photograph women's lives. I found it wasn't that simple. Village life works on its own time. I came across Juanita selling her black pottery at her home on the outskirts of Oaxaca. I asked if I could stay and photograph. The next day I returned and asked again. I kept returning until my presence was woven into their daily existence. I have continued returning to Juanita's house every year since then. Each year, I've watched her family grow and change. I have become Godmother to her granddaughter. I found Carmen Roche in Guanajuato, Mexico in 1988. Cameroon followed and then Nicaragua.

As I return to each of these places, I return to my roots. Years of memories and patience come together to comprise the photographs that have become Al Sol. My photographs reflect the collective human experience in the ordinary moments of daily life. My intention is to transcend those moments, elevating them into universal social landscapes. I am interested in the interior gaze, the external expression and the intangible social currency of everyday life. These intimate moments reference identity, family relationships, and life.
" —Stella Johnson

The work of photographer Stella Johnson has spanned editorial assignments, corporate projects, documentaries and personal artistic expressions. Grounded in her photography training at the San Francisco Art Institute and her advanced degree in journalism from Boston University's College of Communication, Stella has gone on to work extensively in both the U. S. and overseas with commissions from The Ford Foundation, Earthwatch Institute and Continental Airlines and assignments from Time, Fortune and US News and World Report.

She received her first Fulbright Scholar Grant to Mexico in 2003-2004 to collaborate with Anthropologist Lourdes Arizpe's project "Intangible Heritage of Mexico". She returned to Mexico in 2006 as a Fulbright Senior Specialist, teaching documentary photography and visual anthropology at the Regional Center for Multidisciplinary Research of the National Autonomous University of Mexico in Cuernavaca. In 2008, she was awarded a Fulbright Senior Specialist grant to teach in Ecuador. Major New England work includes two documentary projects on homelessness and one on midwifery. Other documentary projects include studies in urban development (for the Ford Foundation,) photo-essays on a Mennonite settlement in Norfolk, Connecticut, and the National Center of Afro-American Artists' annual performance of Langston Hughes' Black Nativity, both for Yankee Magazine.

Traveling on assignment has taken her to Africa, South and Central America, and Mexico. She has documented the progress of rural development programs in Mexico for the Ford Foundation, UNIFEM, and the Inter-American Foundation. For Continental Airlines she has photographed colonial architecture in Mexico, the ancient Mayan City of Tikal in Guatemala, and the tropical rainforests in Costa Rica. Stella has participated in two Earthwatch Institute projects: In Paraguay she documented anthropologists studying an endangered indigenous culture, and in Cameroon she recorded the attempt by medical personnel to eradicate intestinal parasites among nomadic Muslim tribes.

Her awards include a New England Foundation for the Arts, Cultural Collaborative Artist-In-Residence Grant; a grant from The International Music and Art Foundation. Her photographs have been included in numerous exhibitions in the U.S. and Mexico. Her monograph, Al Sol, was released in 2009. She is best known for her work in developing countries, where she has focused on the lives of women and their families. Her photographs of the Gbaya and Fulbe tribes are displayed in a permanent exhibition in Djohong, Cameroon. Stella teaches at the Art Institute of Boston, Lesley University and Boston University, and has been a Visiting Scholar at the School of Visual Arts, Northeastern University.

About the Prints: 46 Silver Gelatin Prints

Stella Johnson Stella Johnson Stella Johnson
Djohong, Cameroon, 2001
San Bartolo, Coyotepec, Oaxaca, Mexico, 2002 Orinoco, Nicaragua, 2003
Installation Images:

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