Stella Johnson: ZOI, 2018 - Signed
The sequence in ZOI goes from light to dark. Starting and ending with the lightbulbs; shining light into my story, my history, my origins.
Foreword by Marina Hatsopoulos
The photographs in Stella Johnson’s new book, ZOI, were made in Crete and Lesvos over the post-recession years of the last decade. Although these have been some of the most perilous times for Greeks since World War II, the images reveal the irrepressible flame of life (“zoi”) that permeates the Greek culture. Despite losing their savings and facing an uncertain future, the Greeks keep on living, buoyed by a tightly-knit culture and a landscape that remains one of the most beautiful on Earth.
ZOI is alive with the sense of touch. One of my favorite photos in this book shows the image of a four-year-old child waking up from her nap, yawning, as her grandmother caresses her. This photo captures the mixing of generations, and the feeling it evokes of those timeless foggy moments after a deep nap.
In the dramatic portrait of a farmer backlit by the smoke of the grill where he is cooking meat, Stella relates a tale of kindness and generosity. Stella and her class had been invited to eat and drink at the shepherd’s “metato” in Anogia Crete, but the students had to leave to catch their flights and were unable to enjoy the hospitality. When Stella returned in the winter, her host Lykorgos asked how long she was staying, then told her to stay put; within an hour he put together an impromptu feast with homemade cheese, lamb, wine, raki and musicians.
“This work is about the celebration of life and a desire to shine light on the bridge that connects the past and the present, a story of origins not just specific but universal. Stella has returned to her roots in an exploration to define her provenance and find footing in her ancestral history. It is about becoming. Bringing to light cultural tradition and engaging our instinctual desires for human connection and community. In documenting daily lives of her family and friends in Greece, Stella proposes a new way of looking at our own lives, re-imagining the mundane in our day to day and illuminating purpose.” — Todd Danforth (2018)