Alfred Cheney Johnston – Still Connected to His Past
Alfred Cheney Johnston is a New York City based photographer best known for his portraits of Ziegfeld Follies models and other celebrities from the entertainment worlds of movie and stage. These portraits are often considered to be some of the finest work by a photographer not only in the United States but in the world. Starting out in his career at age twenty, Alfred Cheney started taking photographs of children in their pre-teen years. He honed his skills as a photographer in Europe before moving to the States in the early nineteen eighties where he took up positions in both New York City and Los Angeles as a commercial photographer. From there he went on to establish his own art gallery, which featured works ranging from portraits and fashion shoots to fashion oriented book publisher, an author and illustrator.
While in the early eighties, Alfred Cheney turned his attention to photographing girls and this is where he honed his skills as a photographer. He honed his eye for capturing female subjects by taking a lot of photographs of his models while they were posing with members of the L’Aerie family in what are known as the Ziegfeld Follies shows. His style of working with these models and his eye for the light became the trademarks of his career in fashion photography and these features would continue to appear in his work up until the end of his life.
In terms of his personal life, Alfred Cheney was married twice, first to Lisa Kramer of Long Island, with whom he had a son named Dean. He later married Beth Chalup, a well-known jewelry designer, who passed away in a car accident in 1996. After the marriage to Chalup, Alfred Cheney spent considerable time traveling to Connecticut to photograph her. When he returned to New York, he continued to take photos of her, along with shots of various New York locations including Times Square and the Empire State Building. He has said that these images represent the key to how he feels about the city.
As a photographer, Alfred Cheney has also taken some intriguing images of New York in and around Times Square, one of the most photographed locations in the world. “I love taking pictures of the people in New York City and taking them in areas which are less familiar to me,” he states. “So, I really enjoy the feeling that people give me when I am taking their picture.” Cheney’s fascination with taking photographs of the people of New York began at an early age and has continued into his life as a professional photographer. The candid style of his work, along with his skill with lighting, helped to make him one of the best New York photographers of his time.
According to Vanity Fair Magazine, “In the late nineteen-seventies, Alfred Cheney had the honor of photographing the first lady’s wedding. After the ceremony, the happy couple sat on the stage with their newlyweds, and Cheney captured their moment as a backdrop for some of the photographer’s photographs. He followed them down the aisle, capturing them as a newlywed couple riding in a white carriage, which he had designed. After the ceremony, they dined with their new friends at a restaurant named after the former first lady of the United States.” These images conveyed a sense of romance and amazement at the beauty of New York City at that moment in time.
Today, Alfred Cheney Johnston is an experienced photographer who looks back on his career with fond memories. “My favorite images are the ones that capture a moment in time, a beautiful city, or just someone doing something extraordinary,” he explains. “The images that I capture in my view camera as a result of being in New York are always going to be very special.” He enjoys capturing people from all walks of life who have a special connection with the area.
” Photography is more than a hobby for me,” says Johnston, “It’s about sharing my passion with others and conveying a message. My favorite subjects are people and places from all over the world, and I really like to see what inspires them to create unforgettable works of art. I particularly love what connects me to New York City because I’m surrounded by people who have such a passion for life. It makes for an interesting story.”
Today, Alfred Cheney Johnston is thriving as a photographer. “I still love to see my favorite shots from my view camera,” he continues. “I look at the images like a painting; each image is an original creation that I create. That’s what photography is to me: a form of art.”