Wednesday, July 06, 2016

the isolation of a parking lot attendant sitting in his booth, inspired Tom M Johnson to start a photo journey around Pittsburgh

Pittsburgh is a commuter city with marginal public transportation, so most people drive into the city from surrounding suburbs, and thus need a place to park. Around downtown there are many parking lots, some large and corporate, others small and privately owned.

 Many are ground-level lots tended by a single attendant.

Tom M Johnson's new photo project "Pittsburgh Parking Lot Booths and Their Attendants" is an equal study of both. The relationship is symbiotic: the attendant needs the booth for comfort and function; the booth needs its occupant for significance.

 Tom's reason on why he photographed the booths and attendants: "I wanted to show an aspect of daily life in the city so steeped in the habits that people have forgotten what makes it interesting."

Above: the most gregarious man in Pittsburgh!
 John has done it all, he has been a U.S. Mailman, travel agent, professional driver, caterer, logistics broker, and a singer.

Tom M Johnson is an editorial and advertising portrait photographer who has been commissioned both in the United States and abroad to make memorable portraits of the ordinary and the famous.

 He relocated to Pittsburgh from LA, when his wife's career required a move, and he found a unique way to photograph the city and tell a story at the same time of the people working there. Notice, in an almost ironic way, that there are no cars in the photos of parking lot booths and attendants. It's a conscious choice for Tom to convey the isolation of the job, and the focus on the person and booth in the photo. "What I've learned is that photography projects can get out of control, and you don't know how to define them. I edited my photos down to a story that you can put brackets around; looking at one will give you the same sense as looking at them all"

This series "Pittsburgh Parking Lot Booths and Their Attendants" is ongoing, and likely to be a book in the near future.

By the way, in his blog and Facebook page, he does feature stories about the people he photographs that are unbelievable. Like the people illegally fired from the whistleblower lawfirm. Irony!

Some of his most impressive clients have been  The Oprah Magazine, Money, Forbes, and The New York Times.

His work has been featured in the New York Times Lens blog, and this months Popular Photography magazine (July/August 2016 issue) where I found it and lifted some text, and his photos have been in solo exhibitions in Los Angeles and Paris.

And I did remember the cool movie about parking lot attendants, from back in 2011: and if you haven't seen that, I heartily recommend it.

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