Two Local Photographers Capture the Spirit of Giving

Service First

“My path to photography was really different than most,” says Army veteran Brian Johnson of Brian Johnson Photo. “When I went to war, I took a couple of blasts from IEDs. I don’t have much memory prior to 2005. I have images but not much recollection. Photos allow me to say, ‘Yes, I was there.’ I live vicariously through those images.”

“I have seen the worst of the worst through my life and career choices, and that helped me focus on giving back,” Brian says of his several deployments with the Army and as a deputy sheriff.

When Brian was in law enforcement, he started volunteering and taking photos for Special Olympics.

“It tugged at my heartstrings. It inspired me to see the special needs community triumph over barriers other people don’t have,” he says. “They don’t communicate the same way we do, so it is important to find a way to communicate on their level through the right tone of voice, word choices, etc. We donate all photography to Special Olympics, and more than $100,000 has been donated to date.”

US Honor Flag is also near and dear to Brian’s heart. The single American flag has traveled more than 7 million miles to honor public servant heroes killed in the line of duty, including those in the military, paramedics, firefighters and law enforcement. The flag has been to the international space station and flies at the Pentagon. Brian assists with honor guard details and helps with photography, design, websites and fundraisers for the organization.

Giving back has given him a main focus for his business, too.

“I am dedicated to giving special needs high school seniors the same respect as others. I am certified to work with special needs kids and have learned to take 20 to 30 images in just 10 or 15 minutes since they have a shorter attention span.”

“This is a family thing. My wife and kids are involved; this is a team approach. They advocate for me and volunteer with me.” –Brian Johnson


Giving Light to Life Through the Lens

Parker resident Johnnie Medina dabbled in photography on and off for about 15 years, but on July 27, 2017, his family was changed forever. That was the day his 24-year-old daughter, Mikayla, took her own life. Johnnie’s idea of Life Through the Lens was born during the next few weeks. Getting behind the camera and capturing precious moments of terminally ill patients was a gift he could give to families.

“I realized I didn’t have enough photos that showed who Mikayla was in life,” Johnnie explains. “It was my form of grieving, and it helped me through this.”

Life Through the Lens provides photos for free. Taking final portraits of terminally ill patients evolved into taking photos for the Colorado Cancer Coalition, Global Down Syndrome and Kids Mobility Network, as well as other nonprofits. Johnnie tries to attend every funeral, and some families want to document this event, too.

“They might want to look at the photos in a few weeks or in a few months, but they need the photos to process what they are going through.”

Johnnie has received messages from people as far away as the U.K.

“People are rallying around this,” he says.

Local companies have jumped on the bandwagon, too.

“We are proud and honored to contribute in a small way to what Johnnie is doing and to help these families in their time of need,” says Karen Shain, owner of Mainstreet Flower Market in Parker.

Her shop donates a plant or an arrangement for every funeral, and Englewood Camera donates two prints from the edited files Johnnie gives to the families.

Life Through the Lens creates a legacy of memories and keeps the person’s light alive.

“I want people to see who they were and what defined them.”  

Irish singer Tommy Fleming is an ambassador and advocate. Finding more sponsors, celebrity ambassadors and photographers will help Life Through the Lens grow worldwide, Johnnie says.

Johnnie also speaks to high school students.

“Depression is a real issue, and getting the conversation started with kids is a big thing.”

“When people ask, ‘What can I do to help?’ I tell them, ‘Just be there’.” –Johnnie Medina