Photographer by chance glad his dream chose him
January 5, 2011 3:12PM
If you go
Photographer David Johnson’s work will be featured at an upcoming gallery party in downtown Chicago.
What: DwJohnson Gallery Party
When: 6:30 to 11 p.m. Saturday
Where: Loft on Lake, 1366 W. Lake St. in Chicago
Cost: $10 admission includes live music, hors d’oeuvres and dancing
Contact: Visit www.dwjohnson.net or call 630-800-6036
Updated: September 24, 2012 6:25AM
Most people choose a career. International photographer and 2002 Naperville Central High School graduate David Johnson said his was chosen for him.
“I really feel like this was a God-given thing — from the beginning, it opened up outside of my control,” Johnson said. “I never set out to be a photographer — I wanted to be an athlete or a mentor for kids. But each door kind of opened, one after another.”
While in high school, Johnson took a couple of photography courses, but said his years at Central revolved around athletics, where he played basketball and ran track. He headed to North Central College to pursue a degree in religious studies and was a sprinter on the men’s track team.
“When I was a sophomore in college, I was one of the mentors for a group of about 30 high school kids that went to El Salvador,” said Johnson, now 27. “I brought my camera basically with the intention of taking pictures of the students doing what they were there to do, so they would remember it after the trip.”
The journey to Central America would become the first step on a career path for the photographer.
When Johnson returned to North Central and shared his pictures, viewers not only were impressed by his work, they wanted to see more of it.
“A good amount of people were impacted by the images, to the point they started asking me to do portraits for them,” Johnson said. “I basically set up a makeshift studio in my dorm room at North Central College.”
Johnson saw the part-time photography business as an avenue to fund future mission trips, and with that in mind, he began shooting. It paid off.
With no formal training, his business was flourishing. From portraits to weddings, he was capturing life’s moments for clients in and around Naperville.
During his senior year at North Central, he asked if he could do a photo documentary of a mission trip in Eastern Europe for his independent study project, and his instructor, Perry Hamalis, agreed.
“I think that part of what David demonstrated early on was a real ability to depict personalities, and capture that in his work,” said Hamalis, associate professor of religious studies at North Central College. “That was clearly the case when he was doing his independent study project, and it seems to be one of his hallmarks now as a professional photographer.”
Johnson graduated in 2007 and set up a studio in Naperville. His work was noticed by large corporate groups, like Motorola and Amazon, and he started to get hired to do editorial commercial projects abroad.
If his original goal was to travel, he has succeeded.
This year alone he has visited nine countries and worked on five international projects.
“Basically all the stuff that I was thinking was a dream or a good aspiration now is just the reality of what I do on a daily basis,” Johnson said. “It is one of those things that I feel like rather than me choosing it, it chose me, or God chose it for me.”
Columnist Jane Donahue is looking for graduates of Naperville schools who have made Naperville proud. To offer candidates, e-mail her at firstname.lastname@example.org.