Atlanta Loses a Visual Voice

The thing about clichés is that they are often true. Of course, that’s a cliché too, but sometimes they sum up a feeling that is hard to express any other way. We have the idea ingrained in us. If you write around the cliché then the reader immediately thinks of the cliché, so I might as well skip the middleman and get right to it.

“It takes a village.”

A village can be a metaphor for any kind of community, and Atlanta’s photography village was diminished this week with the passing of longtime AJC photo editor Kent Johnson. Our paths never crossed but I know many of his friends and was moved by the visceral depth of grief and love expressed at his passing.

One of John Donne’s more elegiac quotes is: “Any man’s death diminishes me, because I am involved in all mankind…” and likewise, the loss of someone dear to so many people dear to me, is a loss of the opportunity to know him, and by knowing him to grow and learn from his life.

Atlanta is a photography town. When I moved here forty years ago, we received the visual information about our city through the newspaper. Now it surrounds us, and indeed we all contribute to it through our phones, tablets, and even cameras. There are literally millions of images bombarding us daily. But it takes an informed eye to sift through the miasma of pixels to find those that truly inform. That was Kent’s job and according to his colleagues, he was a master.

Photo courtesy of the AJC

There are photography groups, clubs, organizations — both professional and amateur — throughout the city, but mine is Atlanta Celebrates Photography, and on behalf of all of us, my condolences to Kent’s friends and family. Your loss is a loss to us all.

We also know our city better through words and AJC reporter Ernie Suggs has been informing us as a reporter for the AJC for twenty years. He was Kent’s friend and colleague. His words will bring depth to Kent’s life in a way that I can’t. Here is his tribute: Kent Johnson Tribute.