In My Life: Portraits by Chris Johnson

September 8 – December 11, 2022

In My Life: Portraits by Chris Johnson is a visual chronology of one of the Bay Area’s most important photographers. Taught and mentored by photography legends, Ansel Adams, Wynn Bullock, and Imogen Cunningham, Chris Johnson’s work is informed by the lessons of master photographers but defined by the instincts of his own vision. Johnson’s friendship with Imogen Cunningham was paramount to the discovery of subject hood in his early career. Cunningham once asked Johnson to consider if landscapes without people were lonely, a provocation that ultimately led him toward an exploration of portraiture and a lifelong inquiry into capturing relational complexity in film. At the core of Johnson’s work are two mysteries – the question of identity and the individuality of life’s meaning. Curated by fellow photographer, professor, and Ansel Adams mentee, Martha Casanave, In My Life is a carefully crafted reflection on the connectedness of personal relationships within a career largely celebrated for its influence in broad social practice.  

About the Artist

Chris Johnson is a photographer, video artist, educator, curator, and writer, who serves as a full-time professor in the Photography Program at the California College of the Arts. He is the current President of the Board of Directors of The Alliance for Media Arts + Culture and has also served as President of SF Camerawork Gallery, Chair of the Cultural Affairs Commission for the City of Oakland, and Director of the Mother Jones International Fund for Documentary Photography. Johnson originated the award-winning documentary Question Bridge with a 1996 video installation he created for the Museum of Photographic Arts and the Malcolm X library in San Diego, CA. Question Bridge: Black Males won the 2015 International Center of Photography’s Infinity Award and remains in the permanent collection of the Smithsonian Museum of African American History and Culture and the Oakland Museum of California. He is the author of The Practical Zone System: for Film and Digital Photography; currently in its 6th edition.

Johnson’s photographic artwork has been published and exhibited widely and is represented in numerous collections including the Center for Creative Photography in Tucson Arizona, The Museum of Fine Arts, Houston and the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art. His public art works and projects are featured in the recently published book titled Art as Social Practice.


Image: Chris Johnson, Untitled Triptych – Right Panel, 1991, Digital Pigment print, 21 x 24 inches. Courtesy of the artist.