Snapped: Time Capsule

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By Jeff Johnson


You're looking at a Rolleiflex 2.8 twin-reflex camera.

This camera, purchased in 1958 in Chicago, was first owned by photographer and newsman Elmer Johnson.

At Elmer's skillfull direction, this camera captured one of only two photos in existence of Chicago's most deadly tornado in Oak Lawn, IL. This camera was Elmer braced himself against the driving wind and rain.

It's a camera that took a photo of candidate Nixon when he visited the Chicago suburbs during his ill-fated run for President in 1960. This camera was Elmer stood in the ebbing and flowing crowd.

And it's a camera that took a photo of the legendary fan dancer Sally Rand when she appeared at the swank Mangam's Chateau. This camera was Elmer sat casually and captured her in real time.

Look deep in to the lenses and you will see the policiticans, performers, and people of every type that this time traveller has brought back with it- forever keeping those people, those places, and moments frozen like an ancient fly in amber.

Elmer Johnson, the original navigator of this time machine, worked at the Chicago Daily News from 1930-1945 in page layout and as a freelance photographer. He then went on to become the owner, publisher, editor, reporter and photographer of the Brookfield Enterprise in Brookfield, IL. (which later became The Times newspaper group) from 1949-1985.

Elmer loved the newspaper business and photography...and this camera.

This camera is also a link between the three generations of photographers in the Johnson family: Elmer, his son Denny, and grandson Jeffery. The three generations of the Johnson family have collectively been taking photographs, both near and far, for over 80 years with no end in sight.

Snapped will be your link to those 80 years, with me as your guide, through the Johnson family archive and all of the slivers that have been meticulously cut from the fabric of time.

Snapped will be an insight in to the work (with a focus on the local Chicago area), the family of photographers, their methods, the history, and behind-the-scenes stories.

Snapped will be a window from the time machine where you might see something that was snatched three hours ago or thirty years ago.

This camera has stories to share.


Snapped will feature:

Elmer Johnson (1913-2003), Denny Johnson (1947-2004), Jeffery Johnson (1967- )

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Reader Comments

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Glenn Davis from San Diego  

Posted: December 22nd, 2012 11:19 PM

Look forward to reading more. I grew up in the 3200 block of Arthur, starting in 1946. My father, Myron Davis, used a twin lens as a LIFE magazine photographer.

Alana Waters-Piper from Brookfield, Illinois  

Posted: December 15th, 2012 2:52 PM

Mark, that's a quirk in the Facebook linkup thing. I'm sure you're very happy to know that I'm still in Brookfield. :)

amykate76 from McCook  

Posted: December 12th, 2012 9:33 AM

I also stumbled across the Flickr pool of Elmer Johnson's work and it was like seeing the history of my family opening up before me. My grandparents raised my mother and aunt in the house we live in in McCook, and there were so many great local pictures that brought their stories to life. Very excited for this blog!

Cheryl Lynn Milan from Brookfield  

Posted: December 11th, 2012 12:12 PM

Jeff, looking forward to this....good luck!

mark roegner  

Posted: December 11th, 2012 10:54 AM

hey alana i thought you lived in brookfield? now all of a sudden your in chicago?

Dan Haley from The Landmark  

Posted: December 11th, 2012 8:01 AM

Jeff, when Bob Uphues told me you were thinking about doing this blog I was really pleased. What a particular perspective you are going to offer of Brookfield through generations of photojournalism. Thanks for joining in on our new site.

Alana Waters-Piper from Chicago, Illinois  

Posted: December 10th, 2012 6:10 PM

Very cool focus! (pun intended) I found a Flickr pool a couple years back of Elmer Johnson's work. It's really worth checking out. Amazing photos from all around Brookfield and the surrounding area. I look forward to hearing more about this man. I don't know anything about him, but really enjoy the photos I've seen online.

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