It was Saturday afternoon, autumn and crisp. My father was watching a football game on television. Billy “White Shoes” Johnson was a football player and a superstar in the 1970s. He was amazing. It was said that Billy could stop on a dime and leave you change.” He was quick, and when he scored a touchdown, he did the Funky Chicken and then the splits and he would let the football slide down his back and catch it. That dude was cool! My father would cheer and celebrate every time Billy scored a touchdown. I have fond memories of hanging out with my father and watching Billy “White Shoes” Johnson do his thang! I can still hear the crowd roaring on the television.
When a commercial came on, I asked my father about his camera sitting on the end table. He said Kelly, I don’t have time to teach you about my camera. He picked it up and placed it in my hands. The camera felt natural in my hands, like a brand new appendage. “Daddy, please teach me how to use it?” He looked at me and said, “Be Smarter Than The Camera, Kid!” Well, I was ten years old, and that blew my mind. Then he said, “it is an unanimated object; it can’t think you can. Figure it out, Kid!” My photography career began that glorious Saturday afternoon. I started photographing children as soon as I could. How unique. A child photographing other children. I loved my father’s camera so much that he practically gave it to me. Everywhere I went, so did my father’s camera.
My parents were so proud of me when I took photographs. When I graduated eighth grade, my mother bought me a Bogen enlarger. I knew it was expensive, but I told my mother she would be proud of me and my work. For my high school graduation, my father bought me a 35mm Pentax K1000. Be still, my heart. Because of my parents, I was able to achieve my goals. I am grateful I had the opportunity to share my photography career with my mother.
My father is no longer with me, but he got to see my first exhibit, “Future Leaders.” And he got to see me begin a career in photojournalism. My father was an amateur photographer. So he really appreciated being there for some of my photo careers. I am so grateful that he was so busy watching Billy “White Shoes” Johnson play football on television that he didn’t teach me how to use his 35mm Zeiss Ikon Contina camera. On Christmas Day 1991, six months before my father passed, he gave me his camera. It is a treasure to me; that memory is etched into my heart forever.
When did you fall in love with photography? Share your photo story with me and all. I'd love to hear it.
Photo Empress A.k.a Kelly Johnson

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