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Common Place: Lakewood, still

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Tom Johnson is a photographer. Off and on for eight years, he's walked the streets of small houses and small lots where I live. He lives now with his wife in the Lakewood house his mother grew old in. Another circumstance of living here that I share. I live in my parents' former home.

Tom has photographed rockers and starlets and TV personalities for magazines and other publications. He's also photographed his neighbors and - wandering further from home - the strangers he encounters. Their portraits record his intense interest in Lakewood. Something else that Tom and I share.

Tom's diffidence and courtesy make these encounters work, although he's heard angry words, uncertain and anxious words, from some of those he's met while carrying his camera. He's brought most of the doubters around, though, so that even if some won't have their picture taken, they know that Tom isn't turning his camera on them and their lives. He's just seeing what they see and keeping an account of it.

Tom and I have discussed his photographs over the years. He's a man of images; I'm made more of stories (and more than a little skeptical of photography). Our conversations have tried to piece together what each of us has found here. Tom with pictures; me with words.

Tom has a show of recent Lakewood photographs opening on Friday, June 11 at Phantom Galleries in Long Beach (81 S. Pine Avenue), down where the old Pike amusement park used to be, just below Ocean Boulevard. Tom will be at the opening from 6 to 10 p.m. I plan to stop by.

The images on this page are used by permission of the photographer.

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