He was wounded in Vietnam in 1965, getting hit by shrapnel from a grenade. A long scar down the length of his trunk shows where surgery was done later. At the time of the injury, he says, he didn't think he'd been hurt. "Just a little sting and some blood," he says. "One day back at Fort Stewart I was outside and suddenly the earth slapped me in the face."
For many years Johnson was a leather craftsman making belts and wallets.
"I had a Volkswagen with a small workbench in the back," he says. "It was like a mobile shop. I would go somewhere and make a wallet for someone in an hour. I've always enjoyed working with my hands."
Just shutters, lenses
It was in Germany that he became interested in photography. He began taking photographs on post. In Vietnam, he says, everyone seemed to have a camera. Johnson was taking shots that were sent home for use in the local newspaper. Soldiers brought their cameras to the photographer to fix them. Back home, he requested the Army send him to camera repair school. It did.
The new technology with its emphasis on electronics hasn't bothered him. After all, he says a camera is just "shutters, lens and something to hold it together."
He likes the digital cameras, but he says that film may still produce a better picture.
"Most of the cameras I get are digital," he says, pointing to a line of them ready to be picked up by owners. He says that it's easy for him to get software from the manufacturers on how to fix the newest models. Parts are simpler to find than those for many older cameras.
"I shop on eBay for parts and have gotten some from as far away as Ethiopia. I can usually find what I want," he says.
Are the cameras built as well today as those when he began repairing them?
"No way. Not even close," he says. "They really don't make them like they used to anymore."
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