Introduction to the Wildness Series
Woolly Home


Photo Intro






Hawk & Snake



The Wildness Within


By James E. Johnson


This series of photographs came out of the notion of the Wildness Within all of us, as natural beings. This notion was introduced to me at one of the Minnesota Men’s Conferences in the 1980’s where we read a Grimm’s Brothers Fairy Tale story of Iron Hans. Years later the notion became clearer in the book Iron John by Robert Bly which is his version of the story.


In the book Robert describes the character of Iron John as a metaphor for the Wildness Within - the need to unite with our Natural Self that lives inside all of us. Its not the macho violent Rambo character or getting out of control and causing problems although that may be part of it, because getting high and letting it all hang out is a way of trying to touch that spirit. Hence the naming of all mind altering substances as Spirits. This need is to connect with a deep spiritual passion within that is loving and compassion for the natural world.


The notion of Wildness Within came up again in one of our Woolly Mammoth monthly meetings that have various topics of discussion. The topic was on The Essence of PASSION Woolly Brother Mark and I came up with the topic and hosted the discussion. After the meeting I continued thinking about what Passion means for me and I decided that when I make a photo or a drawing they contain aspects of PASSION:

AWE – the contemplation of Nature.

LOVE – feeling and seeing the beauty of Life.

TRIUMPH – capturing the essence of the scene   

ANGUISH – missing a photo that I envisioned or not getting the right focus, light or composition.


As a practicing visual artist unconsciously I use these Aspects of PASSION which EXCITE and lead to a KEEN and INTENSE INTEREST that moves my emotional spirit to create.


The notion came up again at another monthly Woolly meeting. I don’t remember the topic title; it had to do with - what motivates us - what RELIEVES STRESS – what makes fire in our bellies. Like most of our topics they are elaborations on earlier topics. For me photography and drawing are the most calming and peaceful activity I can do for myself, its like pouring honey over my soul.


The third topic that I am working with in my series is the annual Woolly topic of PILGRIMAGE. My journey began when I left my beloved city of Minneapolis, where I have lived in the center of urban life and arts community for 60 of my 62 years. While working as an exhibit designer for a museum in South Dakota I met Mikki, a beautiful lady who lives on a ranch in Northern South Dakota. I invited her to come to Minneapolis and she did. We fell in love, she stayed and after a year in the city she longed for the open range. We decided to move to her ranch and pursue my childhood dream of being a cowboy. The dream version of the cowboy has now become my reality and part of my Pilgrimage.


Living on the Ranch on the Northern Plains I am discovering my true NATURE, finding my Passion – my Stress Reliever - my Pilgrimage  - in the lushness of NATURE.


The vastness of the Plains, Unlimited Vistas, Clouds, Wild and domestic Animals, the plant world and all the natural cycles of Birth and Death - Living on instinct -  One of my teachers Marten Purcell a South American Shaman calls it “ The Deliciousness of Nature ”.


So it is with this “Deliciousness of Nature” notion that I have begun my Pilgrimage  - the search for the Wildness Within Nature - you and me.

This work is copywrited by the artist and permission is needed for use.

Passion               Photos