Sunday, September 20, 2009

Sarah Anne Johnson

Sarah Anne Johnson was a Yale photography grad student at around the time, I think, that Yale's photography school was 'incredibly well regarded.' Not that Yale is no longer strong, but I feel like there was a photography thing that was happening in the art world around that time that was very Yale-driven.

*I don't feel qualified to talk about photography*

Seems like there was a Jeff Wall type thing going on, a "constructed," "photographs are like paintings" thing, and then a Wolfgang Tillmans thing, which was something else, a messier thing, not as concerned with what is inside the frame and how to manipulate that.

I think Sarah bridged those two things, the Jeff Wall thing and the Wolfgang Tillmans thing, in a way, with her Yale thesis project. She built dioramas of situations she recalled from her experiences as a tree planter in Northern Manitoba and mixed them with actual documentary style photos from planting. The show was hung in a less traditional manner, with some photos bigger than others, and some on top of the others.

The show received a positive review from the New York Times. Later the photographs were purchased by the Guggenheim.

This success, to my mind, is the only occurrence of representation of 'tree planting' in a high art, sophisticated, international context.


Sarah's success and her story allow me to think about the interpretation of 'tree planting'; how the art world responded to 'tree planting'.

I feel like one of the primary concerns of my film will be "finding a marketable film," or "finding a marketable way of representing 'tree planting' to people who do not know anything about tree planting."


I recently went to Sarah's new show with my camera. It had been listed on Jerry Saltz's "fall shows he is looking forward to" list, and I figured I would go there and try to talk to Sarah and her gallerist about tree planting.

I think things are really coming together for the film. I am continually pushing myself into situations that make me incredibly uncomfortable, and it feels really good.

I will be travelling to Vancouver, Prince George and Oregon in October.