Photographer and videographer John Simmons has captured timeless moments in history dating back to the 60s where he grew up in Chicago. Today, Simmons work can be seen in several locations and now on digital display at the Jean Deleage Art Gallery at CASA 0101 Theater in a showing titled “Capturing Beauty: The Artwork and Photography of John Simmons.”
Curated by Jimmy Centeno, Simmons’ work is a full display of the historical framework of his start in 1965 to the present day. A collection of photos he’s been putting together since Centeno approached him in 2020, Simmons says the exhibit was in perfect timing. “It seemed like something that was important to see at this time. My photographs deal with Chicago and the 60s and all over the world,” he said, explaining the importance of his hometown to the exhibition was due to the significant political expression in Chicago. Simmons continued, “My collages deal with a lot of the events of 2020 and how they connect to history. It was just a good time for us to share that stuff, it seemed like the right moment.”
Also of the times, the digitization of the exhibition. Though the world is opening in some capacities, Simmons exhibition can be viewed online via YouTube at any time, an adjustment made due to the pandemic. Simmons expressed he prefers and adores a live exhibition, the emotions, proper visualization and conversations that derive from being in person with the art, but for this showing in these conditions he said the access to his work globally is a major positive.
“There’s something to be said for texture and for you not to be able to stand there and experience it as it really is but like I said, the optimistic view of that is that anybody from any corner of the world can see it. Regardless of their time zones, borders. or their language, you can experience it. That’s one of the advantages and I don’t think that that’s gonna go away.”
The concept of digital exhibitions follows the same scheme of Simmons work, an idea that simply won’t go away. As a young adult, he was given a camera which became the starting point of his career and what is now the focal point of this showcase. Speaking to his photographs, “I didn’t think that they would turn into anything that was important. That’s not why I did it. I did it because I love taking pictures. I loved art, and I loved telling the story of where I lived, and what I was about,” and so he did. “That camera put me right in the middle of everything.”
Simmons continued to share that to this day he doesn’t leave home without his camera, which allowed him to capture present day movements that mimic the fight for freedoms he encountered over 50 years ago. “I want to say something about the fabric of humanity and how we’re all connected to each other,” he said of the impact of his work. “How history is linked to the present. I hope that people are able to see that we’re in this all together. When they look at my pictures, the pictures show who we are, but not only do they show who we are, but they also show a universal image of who everyone is.”
Of the images used in the show, he has two favorites, both of which exemplify who he is as an artist and as a person. “My art basically speaks of a love for my people, a love for humanity, a love and a concern for who we are, where we’re going and what we’ve been.”
To see John Simmons exhibition “Capturing Beauty: The Artwork and Photography of John Simmons” via YouTube visit https://casa0101.org/?exhibits=the-artwork-and-photography-of-john-simmons.