For fifty years, music fans, hippies, artists, and songwriters have converged each spring on Quiet Valley Ranch in the Texas Hill Country. They are drawn by the thousands to the annual Kerrville Folk Festival, a weeks-long gathering of musical greats and ordinary people living in an intentional community marked by radical acceptance and the love of song.
At the festival, David Johnson is known as Photo Dave, the guy who lugs around a large-format camera and captures the moments that make Kerrville special. It Can Be This Way Always collects eighty images from the past decade. Portraits of attendees and volunteers accompany scenes of stage performances, campfire jam sessions, and vans repurposed into coffee stands. In these images we see the temporary, makeshift world that festivalgoers create, a place where eccentricities are the norm and music is the foundation of friendship and unity. “It can be this way always” is a popular saying at Kerrville: simultaneously optimistic and wistful like a good folk song—or a photograph from your best life.
David Johnson is a visiting assistant professor of photography at the University of Iowa.
A striking collection of black-and-white film images capturing the spirit of the festival—guitars, sandals, tents, caliche dust, and all...In the absence of the chance to gather at Quiet Valley Ranch at least until the fall, Johnson’s tribute in It Can Be This Way Always serves as both a satisfying fix for old-timers and an intriguing intro for newcomers.
Johnson pays joyful homage to the 49-year-old festival…The festival…comes to life in the pages of [It Can Be This Way Always]...Johnson’s black and white photography centers attendees and volunteers instead of the musicians, capturing the spur-of-the-moment campfires, hazy summer fashion, and communal living that define Kerrville.
Johnson’s black-and-white photos take in the entire scene, a mélange of campground, be-in, jamboree, dance floor, and jam session...Recommended for its depictions of a vibrant counterculture gathering and visual evocation of the power of music.
As David Johnson’s photographs make clear, that ounce of difference continues to hold sway at Quiet Valley Ranch: it can be this way always.
~Journal of American Folklore
Foreword (Mary Muse) Preface (David Johnson) Plates Roots of the Ballad Tree: Visions of Kerrville in Historical Context (Jason Mellard) List of Plates Acknowledgments
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