NEW PICTURES OF FLINT: AN INTERVIEW WITH JOHNNY MASON
I’ve known Johnny Mason for years. He’s the kind of guy that gets an idea and goes with it. Whether it’s drawing silly pictures, creating websites, making music, or creating a book of photographs that documents his beloved city, Johnny puts his heart into his work. Aside from the music we made together a few years back, his latest project is one of my favorites. His new book, Flint: In the Details, depicts the beauty and dignity our fine city deserves. He shows us that if we know where to look, we can find glimpses of good. For those of us who make our homes in Flint, Johnny reminds us that home is home and it’s sweet, no matter what the neighbors say. I hope you enjoy listening in on our conversation and that you’ll take a little tour of some of the magic that Flint, Michigan still has to offer.
Would you share a little bit about what your new book, Flint: In
the Details is all about?
Although I know it’s not completely obvious to most people, the book
really is about hope and missed opportunities. There are so many great
things going on in Flint and so many hard working people trying to
make a difference. I don’t think that most of the “outside world” has
a very positive view of our city and this is a visual way to pull
people into the concept that things deserve a second look. A lot of
the shots that I took are details of things that may not be obviously
beautiful, but if you take the time to open your eyes and drop your
cynicism for just a second, there are many gorgeous things that
surround us. I don’t think the book will change the conceptions of
most people, but I hope that it makes them think for a minute and just
appreciate some nice looking things located in Flint.
What was it about this project that drew you to it?
At first, I was just taking pictures for myself, but then many of my
out-of-town friends starting making some strong, positive comments
about them when I posted them on my Facebook profile. A few were
urging me to make a book. It seemed weird at first, but the more I
thought about it, it became almost an obsession to me. My friends
obviously thought that my photos were something special, so why
wouldn’t other people? Why couldn’t I give little glimpses of positive
things to all of the people that think that Flint is filled with
nothing but unemployment, arson and serial killers? I wanted the rest
of the world to realize what many of us from Flint already know. We’ve
had tough times, but we’re not out for the count yet. Come check it
out…maybe bring a camera!
What are some of the things you love the most about Flint?
I’d say all of the things that I honestly did not appreciate when I
was younger. I took the world around me for granted much more than I
do now. There is some great architecture, some amazing history,
cultural opportunities, great food, some inspiring people. I’d like to
think that my world view has changed enough to allow me to see things
more clearly. It’s true that the auto industry has essentially turned
its back on Flint, but I think that has forced some creative thinking
about the future and we have some folks that are up to the challenge.
It’ll be interesting to see what downtown is like in another 10 or 20
You’ve said that you will be donating a portion of your books and
prints from this project to Carriage Town Ministries. What made you
choose this organization as your benefactor?
I knew that I wanted to give something back to Flint, even in just
a small way. It had to be an organization that I knew would be focused
on helping things locally. There are a lot of people hurting in Flint
and Carriage Town Ministries does some great work to help them out.
What’s the one message you are hoping to get across with this project?
Open your eyes and your heart. Much of what has happened to Flint
has been due to circumstance. It was once a great, booming city. Every
person and every town deserves a second look.
You’ve been involved as a contributor to the Flint arts scene for
years; playing music, making zines, creating illustrations for fliers,
blogging, and you’re dabbling in photography. How do you see all of
these different artists expressions being connected to one another, if
I’m always looking for new ways to express myself. I’m not a big
talker, so I think art is definitely a huge way for me to get out my
thoughts and emotions. I love so many different mediums and I’ve
experimented with a bunch of them. I’m just better at some than
If people want to know more about your book or buy some prints
where should they go?
The simplest way would be to check out my Facebook page at
www.facebook.com/JMasonDesigns. There’s info there about how/where to
grab prints and a copy of the book. It would be great to have your
readers stop by and say “hello.”
Any parting thoughts for the readers of The Green Couch?
I truly appreciate the support my Flint: In The Details project has
received so far. It really means a lot. I’d like people to take some
time to reflect upon themselves and see if they really look at their
world with open eyes. Do they practice empathy and understanding? Are
they open to learning new things and to new thoughts and concepts? I
think the minute that you think you know everything there is to know
about a topic, you’ve lost some great opportunities.