poor lady's stained glass

There’s an artistic body of work called “Poor Lady’s Stained Glass.”

It is an interesting portrayal of successful females, whose occupations and roles range from Analyst to Zoo Keeper, and everything in between. Most of the portraits feature young black or ethnic women. These woman could be anyone's daughter.

That they are "every man’s daughter" is in fact the message that the artist hopes to communicate. Yes, these portraits, could just be, a portrait of YOUR daughter.

The artist, Michelle Colligan Johnson, lives in the small town of Opelousas, Louisiana, which is about an hour west of the capital, Baton Rouge.

For the past 16 years, Ms. Johnson has been specializing in women and children's photography, with an eye-catching flair for storytelling.

Driving her passion in her photography, which is artfully evident in her "Poor Lady's Stained Glass" series, is her intense desire to articulate the beauty of black women.

In the recent past and even today, many of the images of African-American women portray an individual who is tough and hardened. Other times, the images are overly sexual, to downright raunchy, and when young African American girls, or any young girl, repeatedly, see these types of images, it starts to translate the message that, that is how they should look to be noticed, to be accepted, to feel good about themselves, and to feel beautiful.

Ms Johnson's desire is to show that other side of black women, the side that a lot of young people don't get to see very often, or some young people may not have ever seen. The side of black women that has always been there, when they are raising their sons, teaching their daughters and helping their nieghbors. When they are supporting their friends and families, and when they are loving their men. This side is their soft side. This is the side that resonates with their inner AND outer beauty. This side is their Love.

Poor Lady's Stained Glass, is a continuation of Michelle's personal mission, to show the world, that black women, and all women, are soft, beautiful, and smart.

On the other end of the spectrum, Ms. Johnson, uses her gifts to give back through photography. Her oldest daughter, Chelsea, now 29, has Cerebral Palsy, and what Michelle noticed, before she became a photographer, was how difficult it was to get a nice, decent, unhandicapped-looking picture, of her daughter. No matter the situation, be it a school picture, a department store promotion, or someone's cell phone snap shot, Chelsea was never shown in her best light.

But, when Ms Johnson, became a photographer, that changed. Michelle found out, that by just taking her time, and being willing to take as many shots as needed, Chelsea's joy and happiness showed through, just like anyone else’s. As a mom, that was a very comforting feeling.

That feeling got even better when Ms. Johnson took on a client of a mom who wanted her Special Needs child, Camille, to be photographed. When the mom saw Camille's pictures, she was so moved, that her child could have beautiful images, just like any other person.

In turn, Ms. Johnson wanted to help other Special Needs individuals to be able to have at least one good photograph that showed how beautiful they are as a person. So she started a Program, One Good Shot: The Chelsea and Camille Project. Through Michelle's efforts, the Program has helped many families in South Louisiana to have at least "one good shot" of their Special Needs loved ones. These photos highlight their best qualities, instead of their disabilities, free of charge.

Although Ms Johnson loves highlighting women through certain themed photo sessions, such as her Creole Women series or her Women in the Woods series, Michelle's focus in the last year has been in creating meaningful Wall Art for her clients. It is meaningful because the subjects in these large pieces are the client and their family, so timeless heirlooms are being created in every photo session.

Ms Johnson is very excited about the opportunity to fulfill her need to create, through the Poor Lady's Stained Glass collection, and she hopes that everyone will enjoy these pieces, for what they truly are: Possibilities for young people and everyone else to aspire to. But, "as an artist," Ms. Johnson says, "there is always that next level of self expression, to conquer, and the next stop on my journey, feels like . . . making MOVIES!!!"


 

Read the extended version 

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