The Lakewood Project by Tom M. Johnson

Issue 21

For nearly ten years I have been photographing the people of my suburb. The residents of Lakewood - a modest enclave in the southeast section of Los Angeles County - are generally conservative, middle class, and consider being normal an attribute. Most of them don’t see foreign films or visit museums, and they often ask, “What kind of camera is that?” when they see my Hasselblad (yes, I shoot film).

Initially when I met someone from Lakewood, who I believed would make for a provocative portrait, I would set-up a shoot. However, this method never seemed to work. In preparation, they would create an emotional façade that would hide who they were. I found I had more success when I approached them in the midst of their day-to-day existence and asked if I may take their photograph. Only then could I capture whom, at that moment they were, before they could think to conceal themselves. Of course many declined this unusual request from a stranger, or some of the images I made did not work because the personalities would or could not reveal themselves.

In return, my portraits do not aim for the cliché or mock those who dwell in suburbia. And even though I may see the world differently than those I photograph, I understand and respect them for how vigorously they strive to maintain their toehold on the American dream. However, my portraits are not benign; not only do they illustrate a sampling of America’s middle-class, they express the hopes and anxiety’s of this shrinking demographic.

Tom M Johnson is a Lakewood, CA based artist.
To view more of Tom's work, please visit his website.

  Louise 

Louise 

  Wesley 

Wesley 

  Bobby 

Bobby 

  Blake 

Blake 

  Mom 

Mom 

  Trista & Mike 

Trista & Mike 

  Barry & Pam 

Barry & Pam 

  Peggy 

Peggy 

  Dana 

Dana 

  Joe 

Joe 

  Sarah 

Sarah 

  George 

George 

  Toni 

Toni 

  Benny 

Benny 

  Three Kids 

Three Kids 

  Triplets 

Triplets 

  Wolcott Sisters 

Wolcott Sisters 

  The Recklines 

The Recklines 

  Toby 

Toby