People I May Know

Johnny Dark, 2006

Little Bear Press

Who is Johnny Dark? Poetic shutterbug. Unapologetic beat generation sensualist. Fiery, renegade bohemian. A myriad of monikers spring to mind when first encountering the cool appeal of Dark’s debut effort People I May Know– a volume rife with big guns, prolific drugs and sexual escapades played out against the tableau of the new American West. But even as this self-aggrandizing mythology gathers in the reader’s mind, it is complicated to the point of irrelevance with the turn of the page and the revelation of other dispositions. For Johnny Dark is equally the creator of visual vocabulary all his own, one fraught with tenderness, romance and a deep curiosity about the people he may know. A memoir in the loosest sense of the term, People I May Know follows the casual, spontaneous path of an artist whose most realized idioms are detached observation and obsessive documentation of the people and places he happens upon. Part travel journal, part family album, People I May Know joins the ranks of unconventional art books like Larry Clark’s Tulsa and Wim Wender’s Once – volumes characterized by fragmentary narrative, deep personal reflection, and photographs that evoke an unmistakable sense of time and place. Johnny Dark’s debut meanders from New York and Spain to Nova Scotia and New Mexico, his lens ever trained on the quiet psychological dramas at work within his patchwork family. This restless group – comprised of his wife Scarlett, her two daughters Kristy and O-Lan, the author/playwright Sam Shepard, and Shepard’s son Jesse – are Dark’s preferred subjects, his portraits of them comprising the emotional heartbeat of People I May Know. Equally evocative are Dark’s cinematic landscapes – all dusty prairies, threatening skies, and poetically vacant western towns – that perfectly mirror the struggles and disquiet of his most familiar companions. Johnny Dark’s work as a writer/photographer has been edited and published for the first time by Little Bear Press, under the editorial direction of Bruce Weber, Nan Bush, and Sherri Wasserman.