On developing as a photographer:
“In my younger mind I believed that I wanted to be in the presence of hard news – that that’s where intensity lived – to some extent that’s true. Now I understand it lives everywhere.”
“I don’t think of images I’ve done in terms of relationship to history as much as in relationship to first and foremost hoping it changed the life of the person that allowed me to photograph them, because they have to go through a process of self awareness and reflection.”
Johnson is a National Geographic Photography Fellow and a regular contributor to National Geographic magazine. She is known for shooting elusive subjects—language, disease, rape, water—and for asking tough questions. Her gripping photo essays of a family struggling with AIDS, of children coping with the brain death of their mother, and transgender teens are classics of the genre. She prepares for her assignments by reading a lot and listening to people talk about the subject. "I like hearing people's voices," she says. "Research is an internal process of becoming aware of and comfortable with the material, an incremental education that fills you with the subject."