Tom M. Johnson


Lakewood: Portraits of a Sacred American Suburb

For nearly ten years I have been photographing the people of my suburb. The residents of Lakewood – a modest enclave in the southeast section of Los Angeles County – are generally conservative, working middle class, and consider being normal an attribute. Most of them don’t see foreign films or visit museums, and they often ask, “What kind of camera is that?” when they see my Hasselblad (yes, I shoot film).

My portraits do not aim for the cliché or mock those who dwell in suburbia. And even though I may see the world differently than those I photograph, I understand and respect them for how vigorously they strive to maintain their toehold on the American dream. However, my portraits are not benign; not only do they illustrate a sampling of America’s working middle-class, they express the hopes and anxieties of this shrinking demographic.

For nearly two decades, Tom M. Johnson has been commissioned by a variety of journals to photograph the most established and provocative artists, performers, and intellectuals inhabiting Los Angeles, such as Frank Gehry, Tom Ford, Bill Maher, and Jared Diamond. However, yearning to delve deeper into his work he began to focus upon long-term concepts. Tom’s first project, Lakewood: Portraits of a Sacred American Suburbreturned him to the streets and neighborhoods of the suburb where he was raised in search of visuals and memories of his boyhood. His next endeavor brought him back to where he lived and romanced as a young man: Paris, the city that awakened his senses and inspired him to become a photographer. There, he rode the Paris metro to each of its 29 ends to photograph a different part of Paris, one unseen by most Americans as well as his Parisian friends.

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