Using the Power of Photography to Give Hope: Fstoppers Interviews Rich Johnson

Have you ever asked yourself why you picked up a camera? Learn about the inspiring and touching work of photographer Rich Johnson as he gives a voice to the incredible teachers who are fighting for their kids’ futures each day.This week, students across the country will be going back to school in some way or another. They will be returning to a place completely changed by COVID-19 and will face new challenges along the way. While the educational landscape has changed, teachers’ commitment to their students’ education has not. This article highlights the teachers’ narrative as they continue their tremendous work in light of COVID-19.The Backstory I had the chance to sit down with commercial and portrait photographer Rich Johnson and discuss his new series: Dear Students. Rich Johnson is a photographer based just outside Orlando, FL. Before exploring the “what” or the “how” of any project, Johnson hones in on the “why.” In his own words, he describes his thought process:My approach to creating anything has always been to focus on why I am creating before I even think about how I am going to create. This helps keep the story front and center.The Message Behind the WorkTo Johnson’s point of prioritizing the “why,” the story and message must always come first. Only then, as photographers, is it our role to use the camera to illustrate and bring life to that message. For this project, Johnson explained that he felt while there was an emphasis on the student experience during this time, there was a gap in the narrative of teachers amidst this new environment. Johnson reflected on the fact that “being a parent of two elementary school students, I hear from my children how they feel about school this year. On social media, I see how parents feel about school this year, but what I don’t see a lot of is how the teachers feel about school this year.” Johnson created this initiative as an effort to change that:  A project that, while very small, is my attempt to give teachers in our community a chance to speak directly to their students through a letter and express how they felt on their mask.To give the audience a more inclusive look into the project, Johnson teamed up with fellow creative, Chaz Dillon, to produce a video that highlights the project and shows the participants reading their letter to their prospective Process of Bringing the Project to Life

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