Photographer Michael Johnson returns for the holidays


Take the narrow path off Main Street in Vineyard Haven between Claudia’s Jewelry and Soft as a Grape to the Michael Johnson Photo Gallery, to imbibe the holiday spirit. Happily, after 29 years, the well-known Island photographer, who spends the summer season here, has decided to return from his winter home in California to share the holidays with us.

Johnson lived on-Island year-round for 15 years: “I spent them on the Vineyard, and always loved Christmas in New England, which has that old-time Christmas spirit that means a lot to me as a big lover of the holiday season, or — as I call it — Christa-Chanu-Kwanzaa. I felt it was time to come back for Christmas because there is such energy here during the season. It’s a good time to share more of my art with people.”

While Johnson has an excellent online presence, most of his sales come about in person. If you have ever met the very personable and articulate photographer, you understand why. He says, “People love coming to the gallery in the summertime and interacting with the artist. That’s a big part of the experience. It makes them a part of Martha’s Vineyard. Being able to do this in the Christmas season is a wonderful thing.”

Johnson will be arriving on Dec. 15, and open by about 3 pm that day. Knowing he would return for the holidays, Johnson prepared the gallery before taking off after the summer season. “I left it so that basically it will be plug and play. It will take me just a few hours to get set up, and I will be boots on the ground.”

Walking up, you will see the outside decorated with lights and other ornaments. When you walk into his cozy gallery, there is a lot of new imagery, so we get a sneak peek before next year’s visitors arrive.

The new works are landscapes — Aquinnah, Menemsha, and Inkwell Beach are just a few locations. “This fall, I really concentrated on getting out and creating some new photographs, because it is my time to work. This year, I had an inspired season,” Johnson said. There will also be some favored classics on view, including his famous image of 22 Polar Bear Club members waist-deep in water, with arms lifted at varying angles toward the sky in an exuberant salutation that includes, “I am the source of my joy and infinite possibilities!” — and thus the inspiration for the work’s title: “Joy/Inkwell.”

Johnson had been a year-rounder for a decade and a half, but left because, he says, “The window had closed for me. As far as opportunities, I had done everything I believed I was equipped and ready to do at that point. Moving to California let me have experiences that allowed me to come back and create new, very enriching, shared Martha’s Vineyard experiences with Islanders and visitors.”

Johnson adds, “It has surpassed anything I could have dreamed of, being back on the Island in this new incarnation.”

Michael Johnson Photo Gallery, at 34A Main St. in Vineyard Haven, is open seven days a week, from 10 am to 6 pm, from Dec. 15 through 30 (closed Christmas Day). For more information and images, see and, and Instagram at @michaeljohnsonphoto_mvy_sf.