Heather Elder Represents
Reps Journal

Kremer Johnson's Provocative 'Second Thoughts' Series

"Absurdist art for an absurdist argument" - Kremer Johnson

When confronted with an argument that the Second Amendment protects citizen's rights to own automatic weapons, Kremer Johnson turned to their art to illustrate a point. 'Second Thoughts' calls into question the original intent of the Second Amendment, in Kremer Johnson's notable conceptual style. Aiming to have viewers call into question their own perspectives, this series prompts the audience to reflect without ever having to breathe a word. 

Inspired by 18th century hunting portraiture, Kremer/Johnson sourced everything for this shoot, from the costumes to the selected talent and from the props to the set design. The technical skill of this project is almost as inspiring as the use of art to create a counter argument, so we knew we needed to learn more. Read on to learn more about how this came together and to see how this work can apply to their commercial photography.

In your own words, what was the inspiration for this shoot? 

We have heard, for years, that one of the reasons citizens should be allowed to own automatic weapons is so they can be used for hunting, and that the second amendment protects that right. We’ve always felt that specific argument was ridiculous, so we made this series to illustrate just how ridiculous it is.

How did you create the look of the set?

We knew we wanted to have Founding Father look a-likes and were inspired by 18th century portraits of hunters. We spent days going to Hollywood costume and prop shops, meeting with a bunch of guys who looked like recognizable founding fathers and researching how to best create the set. Since this was a self-funded personal project, we knew we would need to build out a set that looked as realistic as possible for as little money as possible. To accomplish this, we created an integrated set build using practical components in the foreground and mid-ground along with  a background plate which we shot separately & composited in post. . That approach freed us up creatively because we could spend time tinkering in our own studio, refining the set until it was exactly the way we wanted it.

How does the work you did on this project translate to commercial work?

We love to story tell, that’s at the heart of all we do. This was a fun exercise in our creative capabilities as well as pushing what we could do technically. We hope agency producers  see this and recognize the many ways we’re capable of getting crafty, creative, and really stretching a budget to realize a vision.

What do you want people to take away after seeing this project?

That using your voice as an artist is powerful. To the surprise of no one, this project has gotten a lot of response. Art moves people and we’ve seen that anytime we post this one to social media. While we may not agree with it all, it underscores the potential that photography has to get people to think critically. Exercising creativity through a personal project like this one is really imperative to better yourself as a photographer and this project is a reminder to never stop exploring.