Portfolio: Sharon Johnson-Tennent

by Kara Fox


Beneath the beautiful umbrella of art, the expression of human creative skill and imagination, lies photography…and within the realm of photography we find this month's portfolio… a body of work best described as masterpieces.

"I look, I see, I feel," explains Sharon Johnson-Tennant. Her photography is unique to her as the creator and she has her own personal way of seeing things. It is the story behind the images that compels her. And, it is just a small part of her extraordinary story we present to you this month.

With her BFA from Skidmore College, Sharon began graduate studies at NYU where she learned about Color Theory and the Science of Color. Her first experience with photography came after college. She started to travel the globe and a boyfriend gifted her with a camera. From the beginning she had her own look. When friends would see her images they would often say that's another “Sharon photo.”

She was very busy with a full-time career as a fashion and textile designer, and spent much of her time in dye labs and textile studios all over the world. "Objects and textures ,I saw would often stop me in my tracks."

While in that world, Sharon never had time to identify how she felt about photography…

If she did, she claimed she would have leapt right into it. She was living in New York and spending much of her time traveling back and forth between the U.S. and Europe.  There was almost no time for her to pursue any other interests.

Flash forward, after nineteen years of marriage, having four children (including a set of triplets!) in five short years, she and her family moved to Los Angeles. She retired from the fashion world to find balance in her hectic life. She felt the need to reconnect with her creativity. She began studies in the technical aspects of photography. She loved that with photography you could be right there in the moment. You were able to capture, see, and feel that moment-- with immediacy-- rather than working a long time on a painting or piece of art.

She loved that everything fires all at once with the click of the shutter in photography.

Sharon never saw the world the same again. With family in tow, she and her film director husband moved to Malaysia. Always being drawn to places of simpler realities, she was where she needed to be to be able to capture with her camera what we can rarely imagine. This was her time to explore where all her life experience and studies had taken her.

She shoot photo after photo for about 10 years without doing a show. Then, through a friend, Sharon was able to arrange for a meeting with Robert Berman, owner of one of the largest exhibition spaces in Bergmont Station Arts Complex. With only three days to gather images for her meeting, she was having difficulty finding a focus; she needed help in deciding what to bring to her meeting. She found a photography assistant who spent four hours going through the work; this helped to reinforce her own instincts.

She now knew what to bring in that she had three bodies of work, and two self-published books to showcase the scope of her photography as she met with Mr. Berman. As they sat together, she had only arrived at the fifth image, when he abruptly stopped her.

He said he hadn't  seen a body of work so strong in eleven years and they were doing a show! They just had to figure out what show to do.

They decided on DIFFUSION. The response to the show has been overwhelming. Some of the prints are over-sized, 4' x 6', so large you can imagine stepping into the story behind these magnificent images of calm and serenity.

DIFFUSION is a collection of images with "an ethereal quality reflecting a diffusion of light and sky combining the surreal and bucolic. It exhibits the artist's intuition while showing a natural sense of harmony in the composition balanced by a sense of color and symmetry." This work was "born over nine years of a need to escape the hectic pace of Los Angeles."  Sharon describes the photographs in this series as "images that seem to have stopped time, things in plain sight but not always seen."  It is the details, the light, the shadows, the textures which she reveals in the lens of her camera.

Last year Sharon travelled to Morocco. Discovering that people of that culture don't like to  be photographed, she would go out to towns and markets in the late afternoons where the light was low. The results are shadowy vibrant images looking like masterpieces in compositions evoking the feeling of pastel artwork.

This was a departure from her past work. She is always playing with movement within her camera, using her sense of color, composition and textural instincts. She said it was so much fun to go off in a different direction and end up with a body of work that feels so strong.

Next month she is off again, traveling to Cambodia and Vietnam and will no doubt discover some different approach to add something new and exciting to her far reaching body of work! She claims not having a plan is really what makes her photography different from others. She allows her finely tuned instincts to inform her brilliant technique.

In the past two years, Sharon has earned more than 12 awards, including second place in the Julia Margaret Cameron Award. She has been published and was selected as one of the "Five Notable Photographers" last year in Fabrik Magazine.

Canon 5D cameras are her choice. (24-70mm lens, a 16-35mm lens and others) She always shoots in raw. All her retouching is done in the computer with Lightroom and Photoshop. She doesn't manipulate images. Every megapixel must be perfect. She is very careful about framing and composition, she does not crop or alter her images. It is the abstract which compels her. What she captures in the lens of her camera comes more from instinct rather than calculation. Her instinct is perfection. The vision of Sharon Johnson-Tennant as she sees things, is as an absolute purist through and through.

To enjoy more of Sharon Johnson-Tennant's work…

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Blue Suits


Girl in Pink Suit

Kitchen at Stok Monastery

Linger in Silence

Malibu Road



Pilgrimage Home



Tea Plantation




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