John Simmons, ASC is an American cinematographer and multimedia artist, who we collaborated with in September of this year, to bring to life “Photography is my Heart”. Alongside Bridget R. Cooks Ph,D., curator of the exhibition, we brought the artist’s work together in an exhibition that transcended the boundaries of traditional art exhibitions, taking the artist’s work to a whole new level of connection with his audience.
This online showcase offers a glimpse into Simmons’ profound ability to freeze moments in time and his keen observation of Black American life over the past six decades. In Simmon’s own words, this exhibition stands as a new opportunity for his work to cross borders and become available 24/7 to a worldwide audience.
Known primarily as a cinematographer, the multimedia artist started his creative endeavors with collage works and photography. He officially began his photography career in the 1960s working with the black-owned newspaper, The Chicago Defender.
Mentored by the renowned photojournalist Robert Sengstacke, Simmons’ early works were influenced by the defining images of Black American culture in the 1960s and ’70s and the social dynamics that surrounded his day-to-day life. He began portraying African-American life in Chicago. Quickly, his eye for composition and storytelling in a single image was recognized by monumental figures in Black film, propelling him towards a successful career as a cinematographer.
The selected photographs for this exhibition serve as a modest offering, highlighting the subtle and beautiful moments captured by Simmons throughout his lifetime. His observational skills are captured in his unique black and white photography and have allowed him to document the everyday lives of Black Americans in a way that is both powerful and intimate.
Simmons is currently part of the American Society of Cinematographers (ASC), serving as Vice President of the association. Throughout his career, he has actively advocated for bettering inclusivity in the film and television industry, as part of the Board of Governors of the Television Academy and as a professor in UCLA.
During the preparation for this online exhibition and while getting to know John Simmons, we got to hear his own personal reflections on his artistic journey. When speaking about his own work, Simmons emphasizes his ongoing commitment to equity, dignity, and authenticity. He has always expressed his innate connection to art, being drawn from a very young age to pictures, textures and shapes. Later, His studies in fine art and cinematography at Fisk University and USC laid the foundation for a wide-ranging, award-winning, and prolific career.
When asked about this choice for black and white photography, Simmons highlights the influence he had in his early years, following other photographers who also worked with this style. He finds that the black and white of the images “cuts to the chance”, eliminating distractions, and allowing the narrative of the photo to speak for itself.
John also speaks on the intuitivity that comes with taking pictures. He says that the “right moment” doesn’t really exist. It is all about coincidence, observing and crossing paths at the right place and time, and capturing without thinking too much about it.
At Dot Red, we’ve gone beyond the traditional online viewing experience. CEO Jeremy Quant, with a background in private and art collector tours and a keen eye for technological advancements, envisioned a platform that transcends the limitations of physical galleries. Our format includes talks, exhibition trailers, broadcast interviews, guided walkthroughs, rich backstories, and the unique addition of the artist’s voice. We wish to bring the artwork to life, bring viewers closer to the artists’ creative processes and strengthen our commitment to extending the sales cycle and making art accessible to a global audience.
“In a world where there’s so much more media attached to things, you’re forced to adapt. And I don’t think it’s a bad thing. I think it’s actually a really good thing,” says Quant in an interview with L.A. Weekly. Dot Red’s commitment to adapting and enhancing the online art experience sets us apart, offering more to those unable to attend in person or seeking more ways to discover art.
Our latest exhibition at Dot Red stands as a testament to John Simmons’ lifelong dedication to capturing the beauty and complexity of Black American life. As you explore the online exhibition, you’ll not only witness iconic moments frozen in time but also experience the artist’s narrative, adding layers of context and emotion to each photograph.
In the vast realm of artistic expression, John Simmons, ASC stands as a luminary, a visionary whose work transcends conventional boundaries. A master of cinematography, photography, and multimedia art, Simmons weaves narratives that not only capture the essence of the human experience but also empower and provoke contemplation.
His photographs, full of soul, illustrate decades of history, portraying his activism and his presence in historic events. Among his captured images, we find renowned faces such as Nina Simone and Shirley Chisholm, and major events such as the 1968 Democratic National Convention protests, the Bud Billiken Parade, the Civil Rights movement and many others.
Dot Red’s pioneering approach to online exhibitions ensures that the impact of “Photography is My Heart” goes beyond the limitations of physical galleries. The platform’s commitment to enriching the online experience, extending the sales cycle, and making art accessible to a global audience marks a new era in the art world.
Don’t miss the opportunity to witness the tides of change, the historic moments, and the ordinary yet extraordinary stories captured by John Simmons, which you will be able to listen to in each piece. This online exhibition is currently on view on our website and can be accessed at John Simmons: Photography Is My Heart.
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