From the moment the world stops for air conditioning in a room in downtown Washington, DC, to the moment a family is reunited with their missing son and daughter-in-law in suburban Minneapolis, people often turn to photography to capture moments of peace and happiness.
“It’s kind of like a ritual,” said Lauren Johnson, a freelance photographer who is the artistic director at Mural Gallery, a nonprofit art collective in Seattle.
“We get together, get together a couple of days, and have the same thing.”
Johnson said that she’s used to capturing moments of tranquility that have nothing to do in any way with politics.
“I like to make a big statement.
I think that people tend to be more accepting when there’s something positive in the world,” she said.
But for Johnson, the photography is also about connecting people to the larger culture around them.
“The beauty of photography is it’s not really about the pictures, it’s about what’s happening inside them,” she told The Washington Post.
“What are people thinking about?
What’s happening in the community?
What are they looking at?
How are people feeling?
And then they can connect to the people around them.”
Johnson and her friends have been taking photos for nearly three years and have a collection of over 1,000.
But even as the city has become a destination for tourists and artists alike, Johnson said she hasn’t seen a mass shooting in decades.
“When I first started, I had a gun in my hand and I didn’t know what to expect,” Johnson said.
“But I realized that there’s a lot of violence in this city and it’s very easy to be afraid of it.
People feel a little bit scared, and so when I’m taking photos, I try to make the most of it.”
She said that even though she’s known for her “shooting on the weekends” and her “no-shoot zone,” she’s never felt unsafe photographing in the nation’s capital.
“There are some pretty dangerous situations,” she explained.
“If I go out shooting, I’m in the wrong place at the wrong time, and I’m just trying to photograph.”
She added that she has noticed that the “no shoot zones” are often populated by young, black and Latino people.
But Johnson said her “shoot zone” is also a safe place for people of color to go for the first time.
“People are more open and friendly, and that’s a good thing,” she added.
“Because when you’re shooting, you’re also sharing.
And you’re letting people know what you’re doing, what you think of them.”
It’s also a way for people to show support for the people they know.
“Sometimes you just want to get your hands dirty,” she observed.
“You just want something that you can do for someone.”
For Johnson, being able to get out of her comfort zone is one of the biggest rewards in photography.
“Being in a place where you can be yourself is so important to me,” she emphasized.
“In a way, the camera is the way to be yourself. “
I think you can have all these different types of people that you don’t have in other areas of life,” she concluded.
“In a way, the camera is the way to be yourself.
And being a photographer has been so much of my identity.”
The following is a video Johnson made to share her experiences with people in the city.
The photographer is also currently documenting a group of people working on a project to create a memorial wall for her friend, the woman who was killed on Saturday, November 17, 2017.
The project, called The Wall, was a response to the deaths of two young black women in Washington, D.C., and the loss of the lives of six other people, including the three men who died at the hands of a gunman.
In the video, Johnson talks about how her photography and her work have inspired people around the world, including President Donald Trump and his family.
The Wall project has been supported by the Washington Metropolitan Police Department and the Federal Government of the United States of America.