Tag Archives: Cheryl Adams Johnson Photography

Eso es Capoeira

Twenty years ago while living in Boston, a dear friend of mine invited me to come observe his capoeira class held at the Dance Complex in Central Square, Cambridge. I watched him practice the slow beautiful movements enamored by the combination of acrobatics and athleticism and fluidity of dance.


It’s origins are based in Afro-Brazilian slave culture. The slaves disguised precise kicks and strikes in dance. Always accompanied by music, capoeiristas “dance”  and “play games” in a roda, a circle of players and musicians, singing rhythmic call and response songs in Portuguese that lead the pace and movement of the game. The berimbau my friend carried (a single string instrument essential in capoeira music and practice), imitated an appendage that when not being played was carefully carried on his back.

Unlike in sparring matches of more traditional martial arts, there is little contact and lots of smiling and community.


The Roda at Waterplace Park in Providence, RI

Fast forward 20 years….

My five year-old son loves music. He loves to dance. He started karate and acrobatics at age 3 and was actually quite good at both. The karate was not quite the right fit (not enough freedom of movement and physical expression) and dance classes were also not quite right (not enough freedom of movement and physical expression). What is going to work? I envisioned my friend…


I showed my son a few videos and enrolled him at the only children’s capoeira program in Rhode Island offered by New Wave Martial Arts. New Wave is affiliated with the Rhode Island capoeira group Grupo Ondas.


My son is not an easy sell for anything. It was a challenge getting him to go to class at times. He is quiet, stubborn, intense, ritualistic, visual, physical…once he was there, he loved it. Capoeira is not just learning a martial art. It is learning about a culture of community and discipline married with peace and joy. When participating in the roda, capoeristas bring energy and laughter. Little Guy lives for the roda



After a full year of attending class, he earned his first cord, the corde crua, this weekend, inducting him into the capoeira community. It was a big moment. He was nervous. But, he was proud and inspired by watching all the masters, mestres and professors that had traveled from different parts of the country to honor the initiation of new students and the changing of levels for the experienced students, both adults and children.


Little Guy receiving his cord

The celebration went on for hours…the energy was infectious! One of the most beautiful aspects of the practice is the joy the capoeristas bring to the practice.




Beginning a game…

The power, athleticism, and beauty of the movements are addictive to watch.


We stayed for hours…

On the way home I asked my son if he wanted to continue with capoeira.

He emphatically in that “what are you silly?” tone replied


We will see the New Wave family back in class next week after a short break this week (just don’t tell Little Guy)



To go or not to go…that was our question. Seems silly now.


We are fortunate to have family who have a series of cabins on a remote island in Maine. It is beautiful. Situated in a lake at the base of Mount Katahdin, the highest peak in Maine and the end point of the Appalachian Trail, it is out of cell phone range and without electricity. It is place where one can truly disconnect.

As parents of three children ages 11, 5, and 3, the dilemma was the drive. Eight long hours in the car plus a transporting our gear via small motor boat across the lake. We were also going to be using our tent on a tent platform, so all of our camping gear would be coming with us as well…

Already burned out, this felt daunting.


Then a cabin freed up. Suddenly packing just our clothing a few blankets and books seemed doable. Also, the drive would be broken up by a night stay in a hotel a little more than half way up.


Photographing my family takes on different intentions. One of them is the usual snap shot, usually taken with my iPhone 4S and shared via social media. These images are meant for immediate consumption. They tell the story of what is happening right now. I do take the time to develop them and make them pretty, but they are what they are.

The second type of photograph I take are the ones that are meant to document my family. These images are more about the history of our family. The images that we like to take out years from now and find ourselves back in the moment, in the place, in the body and age we were…this is what I tried to do while we were in this magical place. This is my pleasure and my way of disconnecting with the immediacy of everyday routine and life. I am connecting with the story of our family and the place we are experiencing together. Slowing down to observe…a true luxury.


I want my children to have these images of them selves, their grandparents, their relationships as siblings. I want these images to transport them back to the quiet serenity and simplicity of the island where playing with sticks, digging in the sand, listening to the laughter of the loons, paddling in a kayak, preparing and eating dinner with extended family, listening to Oma and Grandpa tell stories, was truly a vacation.





When I meet with families, attend weddings, and other special occasions, I am there to create images that will tell the stories of that family. What may seem to be an hour in carefully chosen outfits in a beautiful location trying to assemble that perfect family photo, in my mind is actually much more than that. I am there to work so that hopefully parents can relax and enjoy the moment with their children. So they can allow for that hour of their history to unfold. So that I can create those images that the children will inherit as pieces of their history. Images that are for “immediate consumption” …sharing and adding to holiday cards, but also are looked at again and again in order to return to that brief moment where everyone was together for the sake of documenting togetherness.

I know that may not be the intention my clients bring to their session, but that’s okay.

I am the one working…

Let’s Dance

At the end of June, I was invited to photograph a dance school. I attended the dress rehearsal and the following afternoon I took the portraits of 20 or so students. As a dancer growing up, I really enjoy spending time back stage and working with the dancers as they bring various personalities to each costume change.

Delicate and graceful ballerinas…

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And smart and sassy jazz attitude…

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These girls really brought it and made for a fantastic afternoon of portrait shooting!

Winter (sort of) Hibernation (sort of)

Winter is generally a slow time for me and I rather like it that way (sort of). It’s not that I don’t like taking pictures in the winter, it’s more that I like working on my other creative interests, like knitting and painting. They are more cozy. And I get a chance to recover from the holidays and refocus on what I want to do next. It’s time to breathe…

But, we have not had much of a winter here in the Northeast. Just today it was 60 degrees and sunny and not a huge shock, because we have had so many days like this lately. This does make for some interesting picture taking opportunities.

Last week we had our first snow and string of below freezing days. Then the warm air returned. Snow and ice began to melt and created a beautiful mist over the pond nearby. After my morning coffee and a quick shoot with a local jeweler, I made a quick stop to get a few images of the pond and the neighborhood swans before the rain really came down. Good thing I stopped. The next day, the ice was gone, the sun was shining, and our brief encounter with winter was over…for now at least.


Somehow we transitioned from Summer to Winter without much time to savor the Fall.

I love snow, but…

Having scheduled a few client sessions this weekend, I was hoping that there would be enough snow to give us a nice wintery, holiday look, minus the wet, windy cold. As luck would have it, Sunday morning was beautiful. Maybe a bit too beautiful. there is nothing like snow and bright sunshine to cause all kinds of harsh lighting situations to work around.

These same lighting issues that can make portraits a challenge make landscape delightful. Gorgeous shadows. Fall foliage against the darkened lines of tree trunks and branches that have been dampened, frozen, and thawed. And no time to stop and play! I had a family birthday party to head off to.

As I was driving  past the boat yard, I had to stop. The boats were anchored and bobbing in the sunlight, stacked and covered in snow on their racks, but alas the shots weren’t right. I pulled out and got about ten more feet down the road when I saw this winter resting area for more boats.

This quintessential symbol of Summer layered with what is a quintessential symbol of Winter. Something about these hibernating boats made me realize that even though Summer (and now Fall) had passed me by, I still had winter to look forward to.

And that summer will in fact return before we know it.

Enough About Me.

I love this photograph. I didn’t take it. It was taken by Toronto based photographer and musician Emma-Lee.

This image captures Toronto based musician/ producer Oliver Johnson and musician/ performer, Layah Jane.

The first time (and every time since) I saw Layah and Oliver play,  the connection they made together on stage was  captivating. The perfect blend of their vocal harmonies, guitar melodies and rhythms, Layah’s voice

But, what was truly mesmerizing was watching was how they interacted with one another visually and Energetically.

This image captures an authentic nuance of that unique dynamic.

Five years later they are even more seasoned. They are fine tuned award winning professionals. Their sophistication and soul is complimented by a playfulness that makes me smile out loud just writing about it…

You need to to see them play. You need to hear their music. It’s divine.

I am pleased to announce that they will be playing here in Riverside, Rhode Island on Thursday, November 17 beginning at 6:00PM at Providence Coffee Roasters as a part of their “After Hours” events (click my Events tab to read the details).

Come by for a great cup of organic fair trade coffee, fabulous music and art with a portion of the proceeds being donated to the Waddington Elementary Arts and Culture Fund.

By the way…I am honored to reveal that Oli and Layah are family

Weekend Favorites

What a spectacular weekend for being outside in some of my favorite places in the Providence area…

These are some of favorites from various sessions, some scheduled, some not. My favorites are not usually the ones that you will find on the holiday card, but the ones you take in between trying to get your subjects to create the that (almost) perfect image.

Sometimes getting one child to sit still and smile (a real smile) can be a challenge, but getting three or more…I know. I have three kids of my own. There is always one in bunch who no matter what they are doing, what face they are making, you simply never want to toss an image.

Sometimes parents are reluctant to join in during a session. What I love about photographing this family is they interact so natural with each other throughout the session, that I end up with (literally) hundreds of images of an entire family. It’s as if I just happened to bump into to them and took an opportunity to document their Sunday morning at the park. At the end of the session, the kids were done with me (as they always are), so I asked the parents to stop and let me get a quick shot of just them. And then of course, someone (I thought was done) wanted to join in!

I love my niece. She is a whirlwind of energy entwined with quiet pensive moments…a delight to observe. Typical of an almost 7 year-old, she is either running away from me or dramatically posing when I get my gear out. If I hang around long enough, she gets bored with me and then I can take pictures at will and capture some of the quiet moments. But not this one. She’s on the run playfully trying to escape…I was almost fast enough!

But what about Shotmama?

After much deliberation, I have decided to part ways with my business name/pseudonym, Shotmama.

Drum roll please….introducing

Cheryl Adams Johnson Photography

Why? It feels more personal and more professional. It links me, the artist/ photographer with my work. It flows better. It is how I sign my work. I don’t need to hide behind the brand. With humbleness, I have become the the brand.

ShotMama was meant to be fun, a little campy, and not too serious. It has certainly served me well. Having a name other than my own felt safe and helped me build confidence and get comfortable shooting professionally again. It also gave me time to decide whether or not to use my maiden name, married name, or both.

Rebranding feels like a monumental task. New logo, collateral, web presence… Please bear with me as I complete the change over. While I am creating my new website with fun features that will make viewing and purchasing my work easier, you can find me here.

Thank you for your continued support!