Salton Sea Black and White long exposure landscape photography by Johnny Kerr
Solidarity / California, 2017

As I prepare for my upcoming solo exhibition, I’ve been reflecting on the work I’ve created over the last two-and-a-half years that will be included in the show. Solidarity is my most recent image, and Lonely is one of the oldest in the show, going back to November 2014. I’ve come to realize how my outlook has changed throughout this series of photographs.

I notice my perceptions gradually shifting from feelings of loneliness to a healthier pursuit of solitude. I’m not always consistent with how I title my photographs; some are very literal and some are more clever. But these two contrasting titles do reveal a transformation that happened in me as the series developed. I didn’t even really make this connection until I was looking at the whole body of work in preparation for the show and reflecting on my life when I started making these images versus now.

lonely tree black and white long exposure landscape by Johnny Kerr
Lonely / Arizona, 2014

I’ve always felt like a lonely person. I suppose, to some degree, all artists struggle with this. We see the world a little differently, our brains work a little differently, we may value different things and experience the world differently. That can sometimes feel like we are alone in the world. Up to this point in my life, that has been a defining feature of the narrative that runs through my mind and colors my perception; I am alone, there aren’t other people like me, I will never really belong anywhere.

Change of Perspective

Over the last few years my perception has shifted. I’ve been practicing living with more intention. I recognize as an introvert that time alone is needed to recharge but there are times when too much time alone causes me to get lost in myself and leads to less healthy outcomes. I’ve been more intentional about investing into my relationships with other people. I’ve tried to become more aware of other people and increase my capacity for empathy. The catalysts for this transformation have been everything from introspection to clarifying who I am as an artist, to reading fiction, non-fiction, prose and spiritual text, and what my relationships with others have taught me.

I suspect I’ll always battle some feelings of loneliness, but going too far down that rabbit hole is, I believe, an unhealthy form of narcissism that should be avoided. When looking at my latest image and brewing a title, I imagined the different subjects—the posts, and even the tire—as people. They all have different characteristics; some are tall, some are short, some upright, some leaning, and some a little more worse for wear. But they all stand together in solidarity under the sun. I can’t help but feel a little more hope and a little less lonely. Photography continues to be a good teacher to me.

Closeup detail of Solidarity