“Are you the woman in the photo sitting in the chair? I keep seeing these posters everywhere…” This Tweet from April 29 is buried in Ru Johnson’s Twitter feed by now, but it’s something the Denver writer and creative consultant has been hearing a lot in recent weeks. The now “buzzworthy” photo that’s been floating around the Internet and was brought to Johnson’s attention by the barista at Coffee at the Point — her temporary office headquarters — is the promo photo for #BlackSpring. The May 7 event at the Bluebird Theater is a continuation of Roux Black Consulting’s seasonal concert series, celebrating the Denver music scene’s independent artists born during the month of May, as well as the photography of both Glenn Ross and Jeremy Pape of Collective Culture. While Ross shot all of the photos of Johnson that will be featured in #BlackSpring, Pape will debut a pop-up photography exhibition titled May Babies that tells each artisan’s story.
“Everyone who's in these photos I have some sort of connection with very personally,” Johnson says of May Babies. “Some of these people I’ve known for a very long time and are people who I absolutely love and adore, like my tattoo artist, for example, who did the Malcolm X tattoo portrait on my arm. Because there was bloodletting, I have a very deep connection with him. Then you have the performers, who I also love and have real experiences with, and Jeremy Pape captured all of that.”
Just as the individuals in the portrait series have a deep connection to Johnson, so does the name May Babies, an inspiration from her mother that she traces back to a 2008 spiritual session. “My mother is one of my greatest muses,” Johnson says. “What came out of the session was that I was supposed to start an independent consulting firm, and I was calling it 'May Baby' as a working title. It was the only thing I could relate back to, just telling the universe that I was doing this ‘thing’ because I was born on May 28, my mother was a Gemini, my father was a Gemini, and May is just an interesting time.”
But it was this past March, when she was feeling particularly introspective about how she wanted to show up in the world, that she started collecting names of artists born in the month of May to produce #BlackSpring. Pape was the perfect choice for shooting the portrait series once she had all the “May Babies” lined up, Johnson says.
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“People like Jeremy Pape appreciate art and know how to translate the story,” she notes, explaining that his photos are a stark contrast to Glenn Ross’s photos of her that will be shown at #BlackSpring.
During a photo shoot of Catch Lungs, Pape drew a crowd, “capturing” his magnetic energy, she says.
“By having him shoot the portraits of the ones I love in the community, he’s allowing me to translate my love and energy through him to those people.”