“A photographer with over half a century of experience, David Johnson has the distinction of being Ansel Adam’s first African American student at the California School of Fine Arts (CSFA), now known as the venerable San Francisco Art Institute (SFAI). After graduating from CSFA David Johnson went on to establish his own studio on Fillmore Street diligently documenting the development of the neighborhood during the 40’s, 50’s, & 60’s. David Johnson combined his professional training as a photographer and personal interest in music to visually record the heydays of the Fillmore’s clubs, dance halls and way of life. His work has been published in books such as Harlem of the West- as well as the KQED documentary The Fillmore. Another significant component of his work is his documentation of the civil rights movement in San Francisco, the NAACP registration drives, including the March on Washington.
Included in Johnson’s artistic vision was his desire to depict people positively in the presence of discrimination, thus capturing the emotions of the Civil Rights movement. His most published works are his images of ordinary African Americans, children and adults, going about the mundane routines, rites and rituals. He is likewise noted for photographing important African Americans. He has captured Supreme Court Justice Thurgood Marshal, A. Philip Randolph, ball player Jackie Robinson, poet Langston Hughes and musical icons Nat “King” Cole, Eartha Kitt, and “T. Bone” Walker. In addition to the influence of his teacher Ansel Adams, he cites his mentors Minor White & Ruth Bernhard. His work draws upon iconic photographers of the 20th century, Imogene Cunningham, Dorothea Lange, Gordon Parks, Edward Weston, and Homer Paige.
David Johnson (Jacksonville, FL, August 3, 1926 - ) still actively photographs his everyday world. He lives and works in the Bay Area.”