Longtime Jackson photographer reflects on career

Published: Jun. 23, 2022 at 7:45 PM CDT
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JACKSON, Miss. (WLBT) - Whenever you see Jay Johnson, you will most likely see a camera in his hands, snapping photos of big events, historic places, and people in and around the state, especially in Jackson.

Johnson credits his passion for photography to his father, James R. Johnson.

He was the first African American to serve as a member of the Jackson Public School Board, and he was also the photographer.

“I got a chance to travel the state at an early age taking pictures for daycares in schools,” said Johnson. “I really didn’t have an interest in photography until I got to Jackson State University and realized having a camera in my hand has advantages.”

Johnson hasn’t put the camera down since then. He started working at the Jackson Police Department as a photographer and Media Coordinator Specialist in 1987.

His talent then opened more doors, and he began to help as a photographer in Jackson, capturing political figures, celebrities, and presidential visits. In fact, he served as exclusive photographer for former President Barack Obama during a campaign visit to Jackson. He also captured his wife, former First Lady Michelle Obama, during Jackson State’s graduation. He has countless photos of civil rights leaders and their families over the years.

“Medgar Evers’ Homecoming has always been a milestone in Jackson where we remember the murder of Medger Evers,” Johnson said. “His family still has roots here, and I was able to photograph a lot of those memories for the Evers’ family.”

After snapping thousands and thousands of photos and working on amazing and memorable assignments, Johnson is now retiring. He is thankful he was able to live out his passion.

“My hope and prayer is that memories that I have gotten a chance to capture over the years will be archived, and those persons maybe 50,60, 70 years from now will be able to look back and say this is what Jackson was all about,” Johnson said.

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