REFLECTIONS FROM THE NOT SO DISTANT PAST IN OMAN (VOLUMES 1 and 2)
This two volume book series commissioned by the Royal Court of the Sultanate of Oman was described as a masterful synthesis of stunningly executed portraits and heart wrenching poignantly written biographical texts about the elders of Oman, who despite the hardships they endured before 1970 managed to survive under the most difficult of circumstances.
A PHOTOGRAPHIC PILGRIMAGE
In 2004 Dr. Eugene H. Johnson had a thirty year retrospective of his photographic works that was described as one of the largest corporate and public sponsored exhibitions in the world. The concept of producing a catalog of some of the over 250 photographs displayed metamorphosed into a hard covered volume that has gained wide acclaim.
One Thursday afternoon, while walking around in a fishermen's village, something happened that changed my perception of fish forever. I was feeling a bit depressed as I had been unable to find a human subject of sufficient photographic interest to warrant unpacking my overfilled camera bag. I therefore decided to call it a day, but as I trudged along the beach I heard a voice coming from between a pile of rocks. Quite distinctly it said, "hey what about me?" I stopped, turned around and began to look for the messenger. Again, I heard the same question and for a brief moment I began to doubt my own sanity. After sitting down in the sand to gather my wits, I noticed peeping out from between the rocks, a majestic yellowfin tuna with a seemingly mischievous grin on his face. He had an enormous left eye that was definitely not reflecting the soul of any human being I had ever encountered. After careful scrutiny of this piscine character it dawned upon me that a fish is capable of radiating a personality as strong as that of any of the thousands of people I have photographed around the world. I was so intrigued by this tuna that I made my very first portrait of a fish and named it rather appropriately, 'Catch of the Day'. Something's Fishy is a collection of nineteen portraits of fish who were kind enough to grace my camera lens.
REPRESENTATIVE COMMENTS ABOUT PAST AND PRESENT PROJECTS
"I have personally not seen the work of any living photographer who so consistently produces portraits of such an exceptionally high quality. Your images have raised the bar in capturing the emotional impact of a subject. It is good that we came along at different times as I would have hated to have had to compete against you." --Gordon Parks-Life Magazine
After seeing a number of Professor Johnson's portraits, Mr. Brooks Jensen, editor of Lenswork magazine avowed: A wonderful body of portraits that are simply spectacular. One of the pictures of a blind woman, so impressed Mr Jensen that he asked for, and was granted permission to use its title, "Vision of the Heart" for the name of his new podcast. In commenting on the portrait, Mr. Jensen declared: "The photograph and its title describe everything photography means to me.--Lenswork
Professor Johnson skillfully cruised through the waves of emotions and the agony of those he interviewed. With his words, he was able to portray the image of how Oman was before 1970; and with his camera he documented those who carried us through this same period of time."- -His Excellency Abdulaziz Mohammed Al Rowas, Adviser to His Majesty the Sultan for Cultural Affairs.
"Anything Johnson touches undergoes a magical transformation, lifting the mundane into a mesmerizing work of lasting beauty and perfection."--Oman Observer
"The images of Johnson are stunning. It is rare to see such consistently fine work."-- Black and White Magazine
"Johnson manages to capture the essence of an individual's life in a single image."--Estado de Sao Paulo
“Reflections From the Not So Distant Past in Oman” is the title of these two generously sized books that I had the privilege to read the first two printed copies of. I say “privilege” because that is what I truly felt when I first gazed at these masterpieces of storytelling in every sense of the word “storytelling”. They will grab your heart and your eye in a way I think few books ever will, regardless of genre or origin. Eugene Harper Johnson has perhaps created THE two books that will stand out in the world of portrait photography and storytelling. Most such books are either written by the photographer who primarily wants to promote his pictures, or by an author who needs illustrations to his texts. A rare master of both photography and words, Eugene Harper Johnson has created two symbiotic wholes. The texts and the pictures are so tightly interwoven, so full of surprises and precision. They can be read and seen again and again. You will still find new twists and turns to the texts that will change your view of the person portrayed ever so slightly. You will find depths in the pictures that you didn’t see before. Until maybe one day you get a sense of “whole” which must be rare in any art, in any world, for any person. Enjoy.--Terje Bruun Lien, Oslo, Norway
"These extraordinary books bring together two almost lost arts in their classical form, the art of pure black-& white photography and the art of precise and eloquent portraiture that seeks to capture something of the complexity of the person portrayed, a way of seeing that is respectful of the uniqueness of the person whose visage is thus being preserved for times to come. I have now had these two volumes for three days but have not gone through even one of them. I prefer to linger on each of the photographs and move from one to the next very slowly."--Aijaz Ahmad, Distinguished Professor, Department of Comparative Literature, School of Humanities, University of California, Irvine