Lisa Johnson

CELEBRITY GUITARS, a compelling collection of photos of celebrities’ guitars shot by Lisa Johnson, offers a unique vision of the instrument that has come to symbolize the essence of rock and roll. Johnson’s bold use of unusually low depth of field homes in tightly on subtle details of a guitar’s patina or its curvaceous silhouette, and the rich over-saturated colors she favors give her subjects an extraordinary exoticism. Johnson’s lens transforms the guitars of such legends as Eric Clapton, Les Paul, and Keith Richards from inanimate objects of nylon and wood into sensuous abstract shapes and mysterious, evocative landscapes.

Yet however far away from the conventional, everyday look of a guitar her shots may take us, they are always eloquent about the technique and style of the guitar hero or heroine who plays each instrument, whether it’s the 1980 Heritage Les Paul, designed and played by the original guitar God himself, or the scuffed pick guard on Keith Richards’ 1952 Gibson ES 350.

The book will be designed by SMOG Design, Inc. the multi-award winning designer who’s noted for eye-popping album covers and books in music genre publishing. Johnson’s photos are accompanied by revealing quotes from guitarists talking about one of their most intimate love relationships -- with their instruments. Lisa is also the writer of the accompanying text that includes quotes and stories provided by the artists.

This striking volume seems like a labor of love – and indeed it is, on more levels than one. Johnson began shooting guitars back in 1996. Her then boyfriend owned a vintage guitar shop in Memphis, Tennessee, where Johnson was employed by Eastman Kodak. In a very special, personal transaction, Johnson got to trade her inventive shots of her man’s special axes for a rare mandolin for her other favorite man – her musician father. The in-the-family exchange sparked a permanent passion in Johnson, who now drops guitar names and vintages as lovingly as a connoisseur appreciating fine wines. “I was in love with that shape inside my viewfinder. It turned me on! I loved how it looked like the human figure, the female form especially. It was really sexy,” she recalls, still as enthusiastic as when the project began. Through the years, Johnson has explored many photographic techniques for her work with guitars, from using Kodak color negative film to black and white stock and painstakingly hand-coloring B&W photographs, but her true photographic love is the psychedelic, passionate intensity of the colors in CELEBRITY GUITARS, made possible by a rare infra-red Kodak film whose specifications she sensibly keeps secret.

For as Johnson says, “This is my life long project. I’ve decided that guitars may be all I ever want to shoot. It’s my obsession.”