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Lynnette Johnson

Lynette Johnson, Founder, Board Member and Photographer of Soulumination in Seattle

Lynette Johnson is a renowned wedding and portrait photographer based in Seattle, Washington. She founded and started the non-profit organization Soulumination that has grown to have 40 volunteer photographers, a board, staff and serves not only Seattle, but all of Washington. From the website: “Soulumination celebrates the lives of children and parents facing life-threatening conditions by providing professional photographs of these special individuals and their families, free of charge. The life-affirming photographs of Soulumination are an enduring, positive record of the child’s life, and provide a loving legacy for the children of parents lost to terminal illness.”
Interview by Bryce Covey

March 2012

I am a nonviolent person in life. Peace for me, especially in this culture, is helping people accept things in a way that is open, understanding and loving.

Living life in a compassionate way, and with understanding, is a way of life that opens up more doors. Compassionate action breeds compassionate outcomes. If you are doing the right work in the right way, there is no reason to be worried. The spirit of doing your best work in the right way allows for peace in your own life. You can let some of the worry go because there is a rightness to it. It seems to me that it works that way.

It’s always important that the work we do is not about us. It’s not our loss, it’s not our pain to own, its theirs. Some tears are fine, but if you walk in a room and start crying with the families at their pace, that are losing their own child, they will realize that you are owning their loss as an outsider and it doesn’t validate their deep experience and feelings that they themselves have. You want to honor the parents, the children, and the situation in the best way and it is always a very delicate situation. We get to be part of a very special, intimate and loving place. It is peaceful with the right outlook, knowing what the work we do allows for.

This has created peace in my own life by giving me a broader sense of how I want my life to be. In this culture there has been so little peace around the idea of death. It was miles apart when I started, but it seems that it is now more open, especially in the last 5 years. When I started people thought that “only long lives are good” and people were afraid of dying, and it seems that people are realizing that it could be you or I that is next, possibly tomorrow, not just a person with cancer, and there is a strong sense of peace when you accept that.

I think the work we do is important so that a child can remember their parent fully, and if they don’t they can have some real emotional issues and baggage. We are such a visual culture, and catching who someone is in a photo is a very powerful and important way to remember a person. The idea of being able to remember fully, a photo of a specific side of them, a specific emotion, and what I have heard so many times from people is that the photos are the strongest link to their own daughter or son or parent that has passed away. A mother yesterday said that the photos were more precious to her than one million dollars. A father told me once that he was starting to forget certain aspects of his child, and he pulled out the photos and it all came rushing back. He said the importance of having the memories of his child grew with time instead of fading.

I know how important those photos are for others because I know how important the photos are of my own girls and they are still alive. Every time I open an album I am flooded back with good times and how they were. You are able to delight in that. That is what we can give to others.