African-American photographer David Johnson grew up in segregated Florida, and says his life changed the moment he moved to San Francisco to study with Ansel Adams in 1945. Johnson’s photographs of San Francisco’s African-American community in the 1940s and ’50s, including the thriving jazz clubs in the Fillmore, captured a city and people in the midst of change. Johnson and his wife, Jacqueline Annette Sue, join us to talk about their new book on Johnson’s photographs and his life, “A Dream Begun So Long Ago.”

Samples of David Johnson's Photography

Dancing at the Primalon Ballroom. c. 1950

T-Bone Walker. c. 1950

David Johnson, photographer
Jacqueline Annette Sue, author of "A Dream Begun So Long Ago: The Story of David Johnson, Ansel Adams' First African American Student;" and wife of David Johnson

  • Kristin Doner

    Thank You David Johnson!

  • Fay Nissenbaum

    David was explaining the technique Ansel Adams taught and you cut him off, Scott! Do you understand how rare it is to have a man taught by Ansel and you walk the interview away from photographic technique?? This is art, man! How Mr Johnson heard Ansel Adams is historically important and is an opportunity you are missing! Run a second detailed interview and link it to the show if it’s too technical. Think outside your soft, fuzzy one-size-fits-all KQED interview style and bring some sharp focus on this art form.

  • Dennis Caines

    Thank you David Johnson for portraying our people in positive portrayals that span our lives and showing who we are and how we live! Thank you to your wife Jackie as well.

  • Jack Stuart

    Griot (GREE-oh): From French West Africa, a story-teller, poet, historian, a keeper of oral tradition. [not “grit”]

  • Fay Nissenbaum

    For god-sakes, someone please link or interview him about his compositional techniques. David Johnson isn’t some hipster ninny making drip paintings – he is a master of light, shadow, and capturing moments in time. Ask the master how he does it!Instead, KQED goes for the easy interview trying to be a politically correct friend and misses asking the artist how he does his art. It’s the visual, not the words, dammit. If KQED fears boring its audience (they just succeeded with me), then do a sidebar interview. If old and moldy CBS ’60 Minutes’ can do it thru a breakout link called ’60 Minutes Overtime’, surely the well-funded KQED can figure this out. History needs to be passed on. And an artist like David Johnson who’s lived through time deserves a better honor than a surface interview. Mr Johnson, I will buy your book. ~Live long and prosper~

  • Madeleine

    Is there an upcoming show of the photos or a bookreading? Shouldn’t that be posted on the website? I would love to take my whole family.

    I was appalled that the interviewer was not familiar with the term griot and seemed to lack fundamental understanding of African American history and history of photography. Generally speaking the interviewer seemed not to be listening well to what Mr. Johnson was saying so his responses and questions were off. The interviewer seems not to understand that San Francisco was segregated (as it is now) and that is why there was a Fillmore…later one of thousands of African American communities destroyed by various forces, many traceable to racist urban renewal policies. Altogether a frustrating experience, felt disrespectful to me that the interviewer was not better prepared for the interview and either could not hear/understand what listeners at home heard perfectly well. Despite the interviewer’s shortcomings, enough of David Johnson showed through that I plan to buy the book.

    Thank you for inviting him onto the show.

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