Frances Benjamin Johnston’s Color Photographs

by Emon Hassan on August 20, 2012

Frances Benjamin Johnston (15 January 1864 – 16 May 1952)

One of the earliest American female photographers and photojournalists, Johnston was given her first camera by none other George Eastman himself. She had gone on to shoot portraits of some of the biggest names in American history including Mark Twain, Susan B. Anthony and the last portrait of President William McKinley. [source: Wikiepedia]

In 1947, Johnston donated her work, a collection of 20,000+ pictures, including 2 self portraits, to the Smithsonian. [source: Smithsonian]

Clio has a great section dedicated to Johnston’s career, including a great article by Johnston’s for Ladies Home Journal “What Can A Woman Do With A Camera (1897)”. I think it’s a must read for photographers. Here are a couple of excerpts from the article.

“The bane of the average professional photographer is the deadly commonplace—and it is safe to say that the majority of those who fail to make their business pay, do so because they are not progressive in keeping up the advancement of the art, and lack originality.”

“Any person of average intelligence can produce photographs by the thousand, but to give art value to the fixed image of the camera-obscura requires imagination, discriminating taste, and, in fact, all that is implied by a true appreciation of the beautiful.”

“It is a mistaken business policy to try and build up trade by doing something badly cheaper than somebody else. As to your personal attitude, be businesslike in all your methods; cultivate tact, and affable manner, and an unfailing courtesy. It costs nothing but a little self-control and determination to be patient and good-natured under most circumstances.”

The following are from Library of Congress’s Flickr page where a series of Johnston’s hand-colored lantern slides were posted. Click on each image to read details.

[Samuel Knopf house, Lawrence, New York. (LOC)
["Westlawn," Edward Tiffany Dyer house, Great Plains Road, Southampton, New York. (LOC)
[Dr. Charles William Richardson house, Chevy Chase, Washington, D.C. (LOC)
["The Orchard," James Lawrence Breese house, 151 Hill Street, Southampton, New York. (LOC)
["The Fens," Lorenzo Easton Woodhouse house, Huntting Lane, East Hampton, New York. (LOC)
["Brookside," William Hall Walker house, Brookside Road, Great Barrington, Massachusetts. (LOC)
John Henry Fisher adobe, 765 West Highland Avenue, Redlands, California. (LOC)
Santa Barbara Mission, 2201 Laguna Street, Santa Barbara, California. (LOC)
"Inellan," Walter Douglas  house, Channel Drive, Montecito, California. (LOC)

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