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Tim Johnson's Living Images

Ghostly images leave a haunting impression of the Civil War

Ghostly images leave a haunting impression of the Civil War

November 13, 2007

West Virginia photographer Tim Johnson has contributed the "ghostly" images seen on these pages and on the cover of this month's Elegant Living.

Johnson takes his Civil War photographs at historic sites, using re-enactors to create the "ghosted" images. These images, composed in camera by a double-exposure photographic process, are not digitally produced.

Each photograph is hand-printed and then matted, titled and signed. Johnson, born and raised in Wolfsville in Frederick County, Md., first experimented with this technique while he was a student at Shepherd College.

In 1994 he started his business, Living Images, concentrating solely on the Civil War. He offers more than 130 photographs from eight states, taken in places such as Antietam National Battlefield, Gettysburg National Military Park and Harpers Ferry National Historical Park. Other popular sites include Winchester, Manassas, Richmond and Fredericksburg, Va.; Charleston, S.C.; Shiloh, Tenn.; and Andersonville, Ga.

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Before beginning a photography shoot, Johnson extensively researches the location and the events that occurred there. He strives to represent the most decisive points of the battle on the spots where the action occurred, but he rarely begins with a preconceived notion about how the final photograph should appear. He goes to great lengths to assure that the re-enactors' clothing, weapons and accouterments look authentic.

Johnson's photography allows him to pay tribute to the men and women from both the North and South who made the supreme sacrifice in the Civil War, as well as those who lived through it. His work is an extension of his love for a precious piece of our nation's heritage.

He says he derives his greatest satisfaction from the meaning his art holds for those moved by it: the Marine sergeant with tears in his eyes, or the nurse who served in Vietnam, haunted by the fact that the soldiers' faces look the same in every war. His goal is to eventually photograph every major battle site, and requests from customers at art shows also help him to choose his subjects. Some sites he plans to photograph include Petersburg, Appomattox, Virginia Military Institute and Vicksburg.

Johnson has been interested in the Civil War as long as he can remember, and in high school he produced a slide/tape presentation on the subject that won first place in the Maryland State Film Festival. An award-winning photojournalist who lives in Falling Waters, W.Va., he worked for 10 years at newspapers in Maryland and West Virginia. He became a re-enactor in 1978, and he participated in the filming of the movies "Gods and Generals" and "Gettysburg." Johnson sells his work through his Web site, www.civilwarghosts.com, as well as at arts and crafts festivals including The Maryland Christmas Show in Frederick. For more information, call (304) 274-0153.

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