Mississippi-born, New York based photographer follows her subjects throughout their environments. She captures their lives and learns their stories, even when her portraits are of strangers whom she may never meet again. Although she does not choreograph the subjects within her work, she pays special attention to how light and shadow envelop them. She is drawn to neon halos, cluttered apartments, brakelight-bathed streets, and lamp-lit occupied beds. Her photographs feature coincidental, accidental, and unexpected connections within situations that evoke the intimate passivity of the spectator.
Ms. Johnson’s images take viewers through red clay landscapes and family portraits in Mississippi, to the “melancholy and mystery” (ode to Giorgio de Chirico) of a Harlem or Bronx street. These pieces depict situations that are alternately inspiring and despairing: visions that can reflect economic disparities, victims of urban malaise lulled into serene contemplation, cluttered shelves in homes with contents that yield revelations about their owners. Her photographs are loaded with details, portraits of compelling people surrounded by unusual, even humoristic elements. The results of these exchanges between photographer and subject are a collection of exotic documentary, portraiture, and still-life images that embody urban and rural collisions, coded objects, and social explosions.
Nikki Johnson currently lives in Harlem, New York.