American Summer

American Summer: A photographer’s perspective on two iconic WNC gatherings
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Inspired by the vibrant customs and colors she witnessed during her world travels, photographer Naomi Johnson found herself seeking out the cultural threads of Western North Carolina. In two events on opposite ends of the summer, the Cherokee Pow Wow and Mountain State Fair, she found visually stirring traditions representing distinctly different experiences—one a cultural celebration rich with dance and ceremony; the other, an attraction that highlights the region’s agricultural heritage. “I shot these two series separately. It was only afterward that I saw the many ways in which the images seem to echo each other: the wonderful colors, the movement, the faces of folks out with their families enjoying that summer-night magic,” Johnson says. “I think looking at them side by side creates both an awareness of the differences and, at the same time, points out our common humanity.“ A professional photographer for seven years, Johnson has photographed subjects ranging from local farms to a documentary project at an orphanage in Nepal. She lived on the Navajo Reservation in Rough Rock, Arizona, for two years while her husband taught math there. Her past travels include extensive periods working in Central and South America, India, and Southeast Asia.