Through the lens of Jay Johnson

Jay Johnson (center) with Councilman Kenneth Stokes (left), family and friends

Local photographer honored

By Othor Cain

Jay Johnson (center) with Councilman Kenneth Stokes (left), family and friends

For more than 40 years, he has photographed people, events and scenes in Jackson and across the state of Mississippi. Last week, the lens were turned on him. The Jackson city council presented a resolution honoring and commending Johnson as an outstanding citizen for his empowering leadership in photography.

Ward 3 Councilman Kenneth Stokes placed the item of the agenda and thought it was long over due and very fitting. “Jay is everywhere. He’s been doing this for a very long time and I just wanted to show some appreciation,” Stokes said. “He has covered everybody and everything.”

Johnson’s work was recently on display at the Smith Robertson Museum and Cultural Center in Jackson. An exhibit titled “A Legacy Retrospective of Jay D. Johnson: Rays Of Hope In Mississippi.” The exhibitincluded photos of President Barack Obama and President
Bill Clinton, Jesse Jackson, Mike Espy, Congressman Bennie Thompson, Representative Robert Clark, Senator Alice Harden, Representative Alyce Clark, Myrlie Evers and James Meredith to name a few. Other images from around the state featured sporting events, culinary photographic images, Mississippi landscape in the African-American community, and other people, activities, and events that helped shape the rich culture of our state and our Capital City.

Mississippi is a diverse state with 38 percent of its population being African Americans. The exhibit was a way to inspire and empower all people in various communities in an effort to foster positive discussions about the history of African Americans.

Juanita Sims Doty, founder and chair person of the International Community Ambassadors Network (I!CAN) spearheaded the community efforts for the exhibit.

“I thought it was important for everyone to celebrate Hay as he’s done so much for our community,” Doty said. “When the council recognized him before, that’s when the conversation began about showcasing his work. I was excited to be a part of this initiative.”

Johnson has touched the lives of many people, all of whom were excited that the city council recognized him.

One such person is Pamela Confer, a long time friend. “I have known and admired Jay Johnson for over 20 years, and his translation of every emotion through the camera lens is impeccable,” Confer shared. “His impact as a community supporter and visual historian goes so far beyond him and his camera. Even when he speaks, his words are artistic and clear. He has been an unsung mentor, friend and a light to so many in Jackson, and we love him.”

Pamela D.C. Junior, director of the Mississippi Civil Rights Museum in Jackson and long time friend of Johnson, stood with him during
his tribute from the city council. “ Jay has proven his amazing worth to the state of Mississippi as he has captured the essence, character and
humility of the thousands of people he has photographed,” Junior shared. “We are blessed to have such a phenomenal young man in this statewho for many more years will continue to document the history by digitally capturing its people through photography. I will forever be amazed.”

During Doty’s term as regional director for the Southeaster Region of Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Inc.,Johnson was the region’s official
photographer.”Jay covered all of our events. I knew he would be professional and keep a solid record of everything we did,” Doty said. :Not
only did he deliver, he went over and beyond the call of duty, Because of his work with us, Johnson is not a only a local photographer, he’s
internationally known.”

The Mississippi Link celebrates Johnson accomplishments and his weekly contributions to our paper. “Jay is a photographer’s photographer,” said Jackie Hampton, publisher of The Mississippi Link. “His contributions are enormous and you can’t place a dollar value on them…if you did, we couldn’t afford him.”

Job well done Jay, we salute you.

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