National Geographic : 2012 Jul
EDITOR'S NOTE PHOTO: ANNIE O'NEILL Lynn Johnson's voice is calm, thoughtful, and quiet---but not too quiet. She pulls you in. You want to catch every word. Her images also pull you in and compel you to catch every nuance. They are insightful, intelligent, and above all, profoundly human. We knew we wanted Lynn to photograph this month's story "Vanishing Voices." We also knew it wouldn't be easy. How, after all, do you visualize a story about the spoken word? Native tongues are imperiled. Linguists estimate that nearly half the world's languages will disappear by the next century. Lynn's challenge was to show what is usually just heard. She did not disappoint. Not only that, but she made it look effortless. How does she do it? Photography, she says, is not unlike meditation. "It's a mind always at the ready. You go in knowing your story, then you are respectful of what and who is present." The last sentence is the key to her success. The people she meets quickly sense her respect for them and trust her. The proof is in the photographs she makes. The intimacy she captures can come only from a relationship grounded in trust. How do you get there? "By being yourself," she says. "The more authentic you are, the more authentic you can be with others. It has to come from an intention not to manipulate." Look closely at her images. They illuminate and glow with tenderness. Most of all, they magically give a voice to those in danger of losing theirs. The Power of Voice Photography, Lynn says, is not unlike meditation. Lynn Johnson has shot 21 feature stories for the Geographic since her first in 1989.