social documentary

Johnny Panessa’s River Forge

Upper Forge River © Johnny Panessa

I chatted with photographer, Johnny Panessa, in the week leading up to his first ever solo show at Picture Farm, Along the Forge, which opens tomorrow 4/4. Panessa spent nearly 3 years documenting the highly polluted Forge River and despite the looming environmental damage in the area, or maybe becuase of it, his landscapes are imbued with a haunting beauty, while the honest portraits tell the story of the people who interact with the water on a daily basis.

Johnny, who comes from skateboarding background, is a laid back guy and it’s obvious from his portraits. The people looking into the camera just trust him, it’s as simple as that, like they would any local.  And Johnny is somewhat of a local himself. He grew up just down the street from the river in the town of Mastic, and it was an emblamatic part of his childhood. “The river was the place where we’d go crabbing, waterskiing, and fishing–anything kids do in water,” he reminisced. “It was completely polluted, but at that point, we never thought of it.” Continue reading

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