Is it a photograph or a painting?
That’s a question Mary Lou Johnson receives a lot. Sometimes people even make bets on it.
All bets are off: Johnson’s work is 100% photography.
But taking the photo is just the beginning.
She shoots photographs digitally and works with 10 to 15 different computer programs to create the effect she wants, changing textures and lighting effects, for example.
“I take it where I think it needs to go,” Johnson said. “Then, I have it put on a canvas, which gives it more texture and punch. It doesn’t need a glass or frame.”
Johnson, who was born in Jacksonville and moved to Tampa when she was 4, always loved photography but used to be a point-and-shoot photographer. She taught English and psychology at the high school and college levels while taking night classes to become a private-practice marriage and family counselor.
But when her oldest daughter, Randi, left for college, Johnson knew she would feel a void. So, she took the advice she had always given clients: When you feel a loss, do something special.
For Johnson, that meant enrolling in photography classes, first at the University of South Florida and, later, in a three-year program at the New York Institute of Photography.
“It went from a passion to an obsession, if you ask my husband,” she said.
Since then, her photography has attracted a wide audience.
Her photograph, “Crayola Eight Pack,” was one of 150 entries voters picked from more than 30,000 to be displayed at New York’s Times Square.
But you don’t have to leave the Key to see Johnson’s photography.
Her “Water: Above and Below” exhibit will be on display for the next year at the Longboat Key Club & Resort’s Tennis Gardens facility.
Neighborhood: North end, Gulfside
Neighbor since: 2003
Contact Robin Hartill at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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