Johnny is an award winning photographer specialising in urban/barrio imagery. Described as a photographer of the people, Johnny talks to us about his life and his inspirations.
RP: Hi Johnny, please tell us a bit about yourself?
Hello, it is a pleasure to share a bit about me and my work.
My name is Johnny Medina Jr. I am a 44 yr. old photographer based out of out the Southwest United States. I have had a camera in hand for over 25 years, documenting the urban lifestyle.
RP: what inspired you to become a photographer?
I acquired my first camera at the young age of 12 from my mother as gift. It was a beautiful Nikon Fe2, which I still own today. I can vividly remember it was as if she gifted me a magical spyglass to a whole new world. It started the lifelong journey of a photographer, which I am still on today.
RP: what project are you working on right now?
I am currently working on a solo show which will share images of the women which I have captured over the past 20 years. I was raised by an educated, working & very proud mother. With this influence I have been very selective in how I photograph women. I am diligent in my choice to capture women in an artistic yet respectful manner. I see the beauty in the lines of a woman’s face. Those lines tell the story of love, pain, happiness, struggle and pride.
RP: What/who inspires your photography?
I’m often asked what creatively motivates me.
I want my sons to have a legacy that I have created for them. 20 years from now I want my work to stand as a testament to what was “really going on”.
My biggest influence remains my mother. Her technical knowledge and eye for the culturally correct composition resonates in every one of my images. Other influences are some of the best inner city film photographers…Pulitzer Prize Recipient-Jose Galvez, Leica Hall of Famer-Thomas Hoepker, and Los Angeles Photographer Mary Ellen Mark.
My mentor, dear friend & celebrity photographer Pep Williams is a direct influence in every aspect of my work.
RP: What does photography mean to you?
Being a photographer comes with great responsibility. I strive to “capture” the spirit of the subject in the imagery. Finding the connection between photographer and subject is vital. It’s almost instinctive; I firmly believe that there is a reflection of who I am in the people I photograph. Admittedly, it’s not always mainstream, but it’s true. In my opinion, that is far more valuable.
RP: What cameras do you shoot with and why?
I currently shoot with both digital and film cameras. My digital is a Canon 1d Mark III. My film cameras are a vintage Canon A1 with MA and a newly acquired medium format Mamiya RB67. I also have a 1940s Speed Graphic. I still use an analogue Sekonic light meter also. Admittedly I am a bit of a camera addict. I’d like to add that I am a lifelong student of the craft. I believe in technical progress, but nothing will ever replace the “soul” of a film photograph. My “unicorn” camera remains a Leica M series.
RP: Any anecdotes you can share?
Well how much time do you have? I certainly have experienced my share of amusing situations. I have embarrassingly got on location without my camera to tripping and falling flat on my face in an effort to get “the shot”. Bodily injury to save my camera is a fair trade off. Lol
RP: You’re a self-styled, part man part machine. How has this affected your photography?
Indeed I am part man machine. Life certainly changed two years ago when I became a below the knee amputee. It definitively changed how I looked at photography. Initially the physical demands were the hardest to overcome. My prosthesis was carefully chosen to mimic the “plant and pivot” action. The transition period from amputation to prosthesis allowed for lots of introspective thought. I was able to look at what I had accomplished with my camera and determine that there was much to left to achieve. I have emerged from the traumatic experience an even more passionate man. I desire to capture the essence of others even more so now. It was always a passion play, but every image has just that much more meaning now. The flip side of that coin, interestingly, is that being an amputee photographer has helped my branding. Funny how that works.
RP: What are you looking for in a photo?
I approach it from an organic standpoint. I carry my camera with me everywhere. Leica Photographer Thorsten Von Overgaard shared that the majority of award winning photographs were moments in which there was a photographer present to capture that magical moment in time. They are almost always never planned, they just happen. I strive to be ready for those moments. My photos almost always occur on the street. I may be driving by and see the image in my head. I stop, pull out my camera and hope the magic happens. Doesn’t always play out in my favour, but when it does it works.
RP: Biggest regret relating to photography?
Photography has been a blessing to me. It is my means of creative expression. It has allowed me to provide a window into the urban lifestyle that some may never have the opportunity experience. If I had to want for anything it would be dedicating more time to travel. There is strife and struggle all over the world. Within that struggle there is beauty I want to share with the world.
RP: Any closing comments?
Robert, I am grateful for this conversation. The opportunity to share a bit of my story and creative motivation is humbling and very much valued.
If I could share one thing for new photographers it would be this, a powerful image is not dependent on the latest and most expensive camera. It instead relies on composition, being proficient with your camera, and the understanding of light. Worry more about capturing an image that emotionally stirs yourself and your audience.
My Strength, Honour & Respects to you and your readers.
p.s. I would like to invite your readers to see more of my work at
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