Bruce B. Johnson M.A., Photographer, Outdoor Writer and Consultant
My History of
Gear books are a perfect fusion of the loves of my Life. I get
to indulge in the craft of writing. I get to meet the founders
and key people of many of the great classic gear companies. I
use my camera creatively for all sorts of photography from scenic
to portraiture to macro, assembling the images necessary to record
the histories of the companies and document the colorful, innovative
gear they created. Then I indulge another love, working on computers,
emailing back and forth, using PhotoShop, film and document scanners,
and finally, bookmaking software to create the book itself.
How did I arrive here, the author of eight books and a website about the history of outdoor gear? It's obvious how I gained my "cred" as an outdoors person -- those many years of backpacking, mastering special equipment, mountain-climbing and trip-leading. A boyhood of voracious reading set the groundwork for a degree in English and a love of writing. A self-taught photographer, I'd won several local and regional photography contests, such as a Kodak KINSA award in 1987. I had all the necessary kindling for my website and gear books but still lacked that elusive spark of inspiration.
That spark came in 1994, when I hatched the idea of writing an article for Backpacker magazine about the avant-garde gear of the notorious Jack Stephenson. I contacted Mr. Stephenson, and was soon deluged with a generous outpouring of priceless original source materials. Even more, his encouragement of me was a turning point. Backpacker never published the story, Stephenson was too far out the mainstream for them, but I was launched as a writer and soon was launching my History of Gear website.
After almost eight years of accumulating material about the game-changing innovations in early gear companies, I contacted the founder of Frostline Kits of Colorado, Dale Johnson. Like Mr. Stephenson, he surprised me by sharing freely the history of his company and encouraging me to write my first book.
Now there are five History of Gear books. That perfect fusion of interests and skills - photography, writing, researching, but especially my love of outdoor gear - allows me to continue creating these special-interest "niche" books for a small, but appreciative, audience of readers like you.
I also write short essays about mountain experiences which are personal and not "gear" books. Click to see those.
Most recently, I have been doing podcasts about the history of gear and its evolution. Those are with the Utah State University's Gear Design and Development program, and the podcasts are also archived permanently in the University's archive library. Here is a link to one of my seven podcasts. It's about Frostline Kits of Colorado and is about 50 minutes in length.
Back to main History of Gear page
ADDITIONAL READING ABOUT ME IF YOU ARE INTERESTED:
THE HISTORY OF GEAR PROJECT EVOLVES: PHOTOGRAPHY BOOKS, 2006-2016. Chautauqua Award. www.historyofgear website created. Tyra Banks.
By 1998, I had added sections to my OregonPhotos website which reflected my interests in the historical roots of our modern hiking/camping/climbing gear. In 2006 I began work on a book about the history of Frostline Kits of Boulder, Colorado. The book demanded much historical research, interviews with the founder and past employees, and photography. During 2007, the first edition of the Frostline book was published ( first book).. I dubbed the overall project "The History of Gear." The story of Frostline has been picked up several times since I wrote the book, most recently twice in 2016. Once, in an article that I wrote for "Threads Magazine," a publication for home sewing experts. And secondly, a Colorado public broadcasting station ran an interview with me about Frostline's general history and appeal.
In 2008, I published "GERRY Of Colorado," my second book in the series. In 2009, I was consumed with work on "Holubar Mountaineering," my third book, which was released in November 2009. In May of 2011, the Holubar book was honored as one of the year's best "Local History" productions at Chautauqua in Boulder, Colorado. Since that time, I have published three additional History of Gear books, plus two small books about my outdoor adventures.
In June 2011, I traveled to Boulder and Denver, Colorado to speak about the books and the general topic of the History of Gear. For a Swedish persepective on what I've accomplished, read the recent interview with me that the people at "Our Culture" did with me and placed on their Swedish website (it's in English). The next year, my History of Gear material about Sierra Designs was selected to enhance a section of the new website of famous fashion icon Tyra Banks (TypeF.com). And the next year, I supplied the modern Sierra Designs company with an extensive collection of material about their own early roots in 1965 under the original founders, George Marks and Bob Swanson.
My most recent book release, my fifth, was about the history of one of the Industry's most controversial pioneers, Jack Stephenson, of Stephenson's Warmlite.... Also in 2012-2015, I enjoyed connections within the fashion outdoor world, such as with Andrea Westerlind at "Westlind.com". This led to my attending the May 2014 "Struktur" conference in Portland, Oregon, where I met many key figures in small, fast, crowd-funded gear/garment companies.
Throughout 2009-2012, I was also hard at work on a major History of Gear project with a company in Europe that has successfully brought back the Holubar brand. In 2011 another company in Europe wanted my help to bring back another brand, this time Class 5... And most recently (late 2019), I am again working with the Italian Holubar as they expand their reach into the U.S.
Semi-Professional recognition for me began in 1980, when I won nearly all the photography categories in the big Deschutes County Fair (Bend, Oregon). And in the same year, I won a major juried Statewide contest that resulted in $1,500 and placement of my winter snow photo on all the Ma Bell phone directory covers in the State of Oregon. in 1987 I was awarded a Kodak Kinza award,. What I learned in those early wins still applies: "being in the right place at the right time," and with the skills to use what equipment you have on hand, are the most important factors in success.