This weekend had “wonderfully fulfilling/random gallery experiences” written all over it. I’ll share one now, and the other later this week.
I’d heard about the David Johnson exhibit, but as is usually the case with such things, it escaped my mind. A last-minute trip to A Cappella Books next door found me entering the doors of The Opal Gallery in Little 5 Points.
photo credit: David Johnson
Mr. Johnson himself was in attendance a few weeks ago at the gallery, talking about his photography. (Sadly, I missed it.) He moved from Jacksonville, FL in the mid 1940s to San Francisco, California and studied under the venerated Ansel Adams at the California School of Fine Arts (now known as the San Francisco Art Institute). Johnson was Adam’s protege, and first black student.
Johnson settled in the Fillmore District as part of the Second Great Migration of blacks migrating from the South out West after WWII. This migration included millions of mostly skilled workers seeking better education and career opportunities and you know, non-segregated public spaces and just less (if any) persecution in general. People just want to live. The Fillmore, as it’s still known, quickly became the Harlem of the West. Are you surprised?
Johnson’s photographs capture the vibrant pulse of energy The Fillmore had during that time (it’s still got quite the groove, I must say). I spoke with Johnny, a photographer who was manning the fort that day at The Opal Gallery. He was amazed by how striking, vivid and modern Johnson’s collection is, even though the photos were all taken between 1946-1963. So was I.