Tom M Johnson: Pittsburgh Parking Lot Booths and Their Attendants
Project Statement:One of my first commissions in Pittsburgh was to photograph the parking lots in the Cultural District. On a chilly late December afternoon, as the purple sky surrendered to the city lights, I was struck by the isolation of a parking lot attendant sitting in his booth. Through the booth’s weathered Plexiglas, I sensed his melancholy, alone with nothing other than his thoughts to keep him company. Like this man, I am often alone and isolated. I felt a connection to him.
Pittsburgh has marginal public transportation, so most commuters from surrounding suburbs are in need of places to park. Around lower Pittsburgh, there are many parking lots, some large and corporate, others small and privately owned. Most are ground level and typically tended to by a single attendant, who takes payments and organizes the comings and goings of the commuters.
I am drawn to the architecture of the booths because they fit nicely within my preferred format: square. I photograph them not as obscure structures but as portraits of inanimate objects with a unique character shaped by years of harsh climate and the wear of multiple tenants.
This project is an equal study of both the booth and the attendant. Their relationship is symbiotic. The attendant needs the booth for comfort, protection and function. The booth needs its occupant for significance.
Artist Bio:I am a portrait commercial photographer now living in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. I create portraits of some of the most provocative and prolific creatives and intellectuals in the world. My clients include The New York Times, Los Angeles Magazine, AARP, Popular Mechanics, Pittsburgh and Pitt Magazines, Big Brothers Big Sisters of Greater Pittsburgh, 84 Lumber, and Vanity Fair.
I focus on personal work between commissions. “Lakewood: Portraits of a Sacred American Suburb” returned me to my old Southern California suburb to make portraits of the remaining souvenirs from my childhood. My next project landed me in Paris, where I rode the city of light’s metro to each of its 29 ends to photograph a different Paris, “Au Bout de la Ligne.” My current project, “Pittsburgh’s Parking Lot Booths and Their Attendants,” has been featured in Popular Photography, Fraction, Pittsburgh Magazines, Der Spiegel, Lenscratch, and several other national and international photography blogs. When I’m not making images, I ride the dirt roads of Western Pennsylvania on my mountain bike.