John Johnston Captures UCHealth Survivors

Mar 26, 2019
Photographer Spotlight

Denver-based photographer John Johnston created advertising content for long-term client UCHealth, whose network of nationally-recognized hospitals, clinic locations, and health care providers extends throughout Colorado, southern Wyoming, and western Nebraska. His most recent work features heroic images of patients at UCHealth, which would be seen in airports, on billboards, and in magazines.

John has worked for UCHealth for several years. In that time, UCH has created its own dedicated in-house agency.

"The projects have become more meaningful for everyone now that they're their own advertising agency. The great thing about working with the client whose team is the agency, is that they can call all the shots. There's no dancing around hoping the client will like it. I could go right to the creatives for answers and work with them to solve problems directly. It's an ideal situation."

John Johnston, UCHealth

In the pre-production phase of the project, John worked closely with print producer Danielle Bryan, creative director Jeff Kosloski, and art director Alex Polesovsky to schedule the time they would need for the shoot. The organization was critical, as they were obtaining video material in addition to the photographs over the course of just two days.

John had limited time with each person, and there were a few situations in which he only shot 15 images. Despite this challenge, he knew he had gotten the shots he wanted and even came to appreciate the time restriction’s effect on his creative technique.

“Even though we were shooting digital, I took on the mindset of how I would shoot film. When you are shooting film, you know you have 12 images per roll. You look at things differently. Instead of just shooting a ton of images, you take time to compose and find that look. I made sure to slow down and really look at what I was shooting. I think that approach really helps sometimes. Just slow down.” 

John Johnston, UCHealth

What was the creative process like on set?

“For the shot of David, the client had a totally different image in mind. I showed them a test shot of what I was thinking, and they loved it. They were totally open to me exploring and coming up with something different. It makes it so much fun when you can collaborate and come up with something better than what you originally planned.”

John Johnston, UCHealth

Hearing the stories of his subjects was a game changer for John and his approach to the shoot. He was particularly struck by Alina, whose apartment building was set on fire from an arsonist inspired by the Aurora theater shooter. She was faced with a difficult choice: burn to death or jump. Valiantly, she jumped, shattering her feet and breaking her back. She eventually had to partially amputate one of her legs, but describes the experience as the best thing that ever happened to her.

“I asked her how things have been since all of this happened. She described herself as an 'oxygen thief' before the accident…basically just living but having no purpose. Now she is completely grateful for the outcome and lives her life with purpose.”

This particular project elicited a greater sense of allegiance for John. He wanted to inspire his audience, helping to tell the stories of the courageous individuals who have survived tragic accidents.

John Johnston, UCHealth

What was your favorite part of this project?

“Meeting and connecting with these survivors. I love connecting with people and having their story come through in the photos. Hearing their stories of survival, their struggles, and accomplishments was amazing. We had really long shoot days. My body was tired, but I felt so inspired at the end of the shoot that it made up for it all.”


Client: UCHealth
Senior Creative Director: Jeff Kosloski
Art Director: Alex Polesovsky
Print Producer: Danielle Bryan

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