Unspoken Dialogues is dedicated to the fostering of narrative photographic imagery and the solemn belief that the most meaningful photographs are often those that are universal in their message. In order to accomplish this in places where no common language is shared a photographer of people and places must always remind himself that the reason why he or she was born with two ears and one mouth is because at least twice as much time should be spent listening rather than talking. A photographer must develop a skill set of being able to communicate with words that need not be uttered and in so doing will be permitted to dissect away from the visual chaos presented and be endowed with the opportunity to portray the essence of that revealed, the beauty in the simplicity of life rooted in the grandest poetry of all-the universal themes of humanity.
Eugene H. Johnson
Eugene H. Johnson received his formal education in Kenya, Switzerland, England, West Germany and the United States. After graduating from the Free University of Berlin with a degree in Veterinary Medicine, he was trained in surgery and completed a PhD in Comparative Pathology at the University of California. He has worked in Europe, Africa, the Caribbean, North and South America and for the last 24 years served as a Professor of Comparative Medicine in the Sultanate of Oman.
After his father gave him his first single reflex camera in 1973 and upon looking through the viewfinder, Johnson immediately realized that his life was to undergo a major transformation. He began to see the world with a probing intensity that he had never previously experienced. Johnson embarked on an intense study of photography and since 1974 has taken images around the world, relentlessly seeking and capturing those elusive moments when the camera is able to reveal the secrets of the human soul.
When Pietro Bardi, one of the twentieth century’s best known art collectors and the founder and the curator of Latin America’s most important art museum, the ‘Museu de Arte de Sao Paulo’ viewed Johnson’s photographs of the peoples of Northeast Brazil he proclaimed that with the graces of God’s mercy he had lived long enough to see the work of an artist who had managed to immortalize the spirit of his people. Pietro Bardi was so impressed with Johnson’s work that a collection of master paintings was removed from an entire floor of the museum to exhibit his images, a rare honor for a photographer. In the United States, the Brazilian government hosted an exhibition of his works to great acclaim. Johnson’s images have since been exhibited around the world.
Mirasol Delfin Johnson
Mirasol Delfin Johnson was born in the Rizal province of the Philippines and spent over twenty years living in Norway, where she worked with bilingual children and as a legal interpreter and translator. Her multicultural experiences have served her well as Associate Director of Unspoken Dialogues. Since 2012 Mirasol has conducted the background research on the people and places where the photographs for Unspoken Dialogues were made. Her mastery of the art of breaking down cultural barriers has been instrumental in the taking of images of people in many remote corners of the world, where doors might never have been opened and the photographs would have remained dreams deferred. Mirasol is spearheading the conception and design of a number of books for Unspoken Dialogues ranging from the Tibetan diaspora to a multi volume series on India. Most importantly, Mirasol is the heart and soul of the charitable endeavors behind Unspoken Dialogues.
In Search of Beauty in the Universal Themes of Humanity
The depiction of people at the crossroads of their existence has been a repeating theme in my works. As the pendulum of life arches into its final swing along its destined course and our time upon this earth is nearing its expiry date, I have found that irrespective of country, culture, religion or ethnic makeup, that wisdom which is often associated with old age is not a function of that which is learned but rather that which is felt within the heart. It is the realization that those things valued most in our youth are of little significance when compared with those intangibles associated with a life full of memorable human relations. As a scientist I find myself intrigued with the physiological process of aging but what pricks the sides of my photographic intent is the interrelationship between the body and the spirit. My most memorable subjects have often been old from a calendar standpoint but somehow their spirits appeared to have remained young. Indeed, perhaps that is why people often look in a mirror with surprise as they age, because they do not feel different, but they cannot deny how they look.
I was taught by an Indian Sadhu, that the world is not simply what it appears to the human senses. “Humans, like onions, have many layers that lead to a central core and this core is the true self, the universal soul. The true essence of life is to get rid of that outer self and to seek identity with one’s core and thereby attain true humanity,” he explained. In photographing people I have no allusions that I will succeed in stripping off all the layers of my photographic subjects to reach that universal soul but I do spend sufficient time with each to make sure that I go beyond at least the most superficial layers of their beings.
I have encountered numerous people around the world who have shared with me chapters from the storybook of their lives and even though many were close to facing the final curtain of their existence their universal expressions of compassion and hopes for humanity have never ceased to amaze me.
On my photographic pilgrimage it has become ever more apparent that the documentation of the true wonders of humanity lies not in the dramatization of those aspects of life that make us different but rather by portraying those that reveal the mutuality of our existences. We all enter into this world naked, devoid of riches and have no control over when the bells will toll for us to take our eternal rest. To the best of my knowledge no man has ever been called back to earth to give an encore of his life’s performance. With a one-way ticket we pass through time and space, ultimately, all desiring to one day meet our Creator.
The true challenge of photographing peoples and places around the world is not to be blinded by the easily visible superficial layers presented to the eye but rather to constantly peal away and search for the core, which reveals the universality of humanity and true beauty which can best be found in the simplicity of life.