John Moyer


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I had been searching most of my life for an expressive medium which suited me. My mother played the piano and I first thought I was going to be a musician. But I eventually learned that I wasn't one after trying several families of instruments. I cried as a child having to let that go. I had tried photography very early but the cost was prohibitive and I moved on. I wanted very much to be some kind of a writer, maybe even a poet, but the written word did not come easily. I had written in a journal for about ten years, and often it was just too emotionally painful to do on a daily basis. I eventually grieved to let go of another dream. The losses seemed to be mounting.

I had gone to college, graduated, and became disillusioned with the 9 to 5 world. I unhappily held many part-time jobs and continued to press on to search for something that worked for me. Drawing was next, and felt like something from the depths of my soul. For a time I thought this would be my medium. However, the drawing also began to feel burdensome and I struggled with each piece, eventually having to stop. That was a particularly painful loss. I was not going to be that kind of an artist, if I was one at all. I was begining to lose hope. I went back to graduate school in 1995 to earn a degree that I could use. I finally got a fulltime job with benefits. During this time, I received a cheap little plastic digital camera with a laptop in November 1999. I was still drawing and had begun to experiment with that little cheap camera. Initially, I documented my drawings with it and occasionally took it with me on walks to document changes in my urban neighborhood. The camera was pretty bad. I didn't see it as much more than a plastic toy. Within a year or so, I decided to buy a better digital camera and took that one with me on all of my walks. Taking pictures was becoming a regular habit, though still merely a fun hobby. I began to use photography itself as an expressive medium after 9/11. My walks increased as a way to help cope with the shift of worldview caused by that event. More than ever, the photography grew to be a major part in my process of dealing with the world.

In 2003, my brother's psychiatric problems forced me to make some hard choices and I needed to live on my own. I wanted to live by a large park so that I could continue my walks in a more wooded area like the one where I grew up. I found an apartment a few blocks away from the largest park in my city and took my camera with me on my now daily walks into the woods. As luck would have it, a major stream restoration project was starting right in the middle of this large urban park. (Think of a small New York Central Park.) Documenting the project felt like a perfect fit. I began to send the nicer shots as a gift to the organization that was educating the public about the stream restoration project and the environmental/ecological reasons behind it. They seemed appreciative, as no one else had been documenting their work. My photos have since been used for many of their publications and a few were eventually published in Civil Engineering Magazine in October 2006. I've since been selling large prints of the newly restored stream and have become known as a "nature" photographer in the city.

I initially felt insulted by the label because I felt that I was more than a "nature" photographer all along. I have come to accept this as a way for people to place me in their minds. "Oh, he's the "nature" photographer." Others know me simply as a photographer. A few know me better as a psychotherapist dealing with a darker side of childhood and adolescence. I hesitated to include people in my work because I work so closely with them, and I usually use my photography as a way of maintaining a boundary between my work and the rest of my life. More recently I have been given the chance to use photography to make my own emotional explorations through intimate moments with children and adolescents. My work on the stream restoration project has brought me some recognition in the world of civil engineering and lanscape architecture as well as environmental issues. Landscape Architecture Magazine published 11 of my photos in November 2007 on the stream restoration project. The Nine Mile Run Watershed Association is now talking about a calendar and possibly a book. In October 2008 I was given my first film credit as a still photographer for a PBS documentary on the U.S. water infrastructure called Liquid Assets. In August 2009 I was invited to be on the Board of Directors of the Nine Mile Run Watershed Association. In December 2009, the New York Times online published one of my photographs of Nine Mile Run in a piece called: Documenting the Decade, inviting readers to submit photos and recollections of important moments, documenting events of the past ten years. My submission represented the movement of increased awareness of environmental issues and the "greening" of post-industrial America. In August 2013, a permanent display of my work was installed above the Nine Mile Run stream in the Summrset at Frick Community Center, 1425 Parkview Drive, Pittsburgh, PA 15217.


When you look through John's photos, you are reminded of the importance of taking that moment to just stop and take it all in. The beauty of color, of sound, and of movement are all present in these photographs.

It's a reminder that beauty is all around you.

Testimonial written by Yve Fontilea