Johnston, Frances Benjamin, 1864-1952

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Frances Benjamin Johnston (January 15, 1864 – May 16, 1952) was an early American photographer and photojournalist whose career lasted for almost half a century. She is most known for her portraits, images of southern architecture, and various photographic series featuring African Americans and Native Americans at the turn of the 20th century.

In the 1880s, Johnston studied art in Paris and then returned home to Washington, DC, where she learned photography. She quickly established a national reputation as a professional photographer and businesswoman, with growing success in both the art and commercial worlds. Johnston counted presidents, diplomats, and other government officials among her portrait clients, while in her personal life she travelled in more Bohemian circles.

In the 1890s and early 1900s, as one of the first photojournalists, she provided images to the Bain News Service syndicate and wrote illustrated articles for many magazines. Her active roles in pictorialist photo exhibitions and world’s fairs reflect her high level of energy and determination as well as her exceptional photographic talent.

An interest in progressive education resulted in pioneering projects to document students at public schools in Washington, DC; the Tuskegee Institute in Alabama; the Hampton Institute in Virginia; and the Carlisle Indian Industrial School in Pennsylvania. In the 1910s, Johnston began to specialize in contemporary architecture and landscape photography, working for a time with photographer Mattie Edwards Hewitt in New York City. Johnston also traveled widely in the United States and Europe to research and lecture about the gardens that she photographed.

By the late 1920s, Johnston turned her focus to the systematic photographic documentation of historic buildings in the South. She traveled thousands of miles by car to create the Carnegie Survey of the Architecture of the South, which aimed to help preserve both vernacular and high style structures. Her vivid building portraits appeared in exhibitions and illustrated several major books. In the 1940s, she moved to New Orleans where she died in 1952.

Archival Resources
Role Title Holding Repository
creatorOf Frances Benjamin Johnston Collection, 1895-1906 The Huntington Library
referencedIn Records of the Office of Speechwriting (Clinton Administration), 1993 - 2001. Michael Waldman's Files, 1995 - 2000 William J. Clinton Presidential Library & Museum
referencedIn History of photography collection, 1840-1986 (inclusive). Harvard University Art Museum
creatorOf Van Vactor, David, 1906-1994. A little hymn : behold the spirit of the volunteer / D. Van Vector ; [words by] Frances Johnston. Free Library of Philadelphia, Parkway Central Library
referencedIn Caldwell and Davidson family papers, 1779-1997 (bulk 1824-1986). University of North Carolina, Charlotte, J. Murrey Atkins Library
creatorOf Johnston, Frances Benjamin, 1864-1952. Correspondence with Theodore Dreiser, 1899. University of Pennsylvania Libraries, Van Pelt Library
referencedIn Social Museum Collection. ca. 1890-1931 (inclusive). Harvard University Art Museum
referencedIn Records of the National Archives and Records Administration, 1789 - ca. 2007. Records Relating to the White House Cabinet Room, 1962 - 1962 National Archives Library, National Archives Records Administration
creatorOf Johnston, Frances Benjamin, 1864-1952. Photographs of historic Virginia landmarks [manuscript] 1933-36. University of Virginia. Library
referencedIn Olmsted Associates Records, 1863-1971, (bulk 1884-1950) Library of Congress. Manuscript Division
creatorOf JOHNSTON, FRANCES BENJAMIN. Artist file : miscellaneous uncataloged material. Museum of Modern Art (MOMA)
creatorOf Johnston, Frances Benjamin, 1864-1952. Frances Benjamin Johnston collection, 1935-1936. University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
creatorOf Johnston, Frances Benjamin, 1864-1952. Goldthwaite family collection [graphic], 1897-1998. Indiana Historical Society Library
referencedIn Mahoney, Leslie Nell Savage, 1890-1986. Papers, 1890-1986 (bulk 1942-1970). Smith College, Neilson Library
referencedIn Leslie Nelson Savage Mahoney Papers MS 229., 1890-1986, 1942-1970 Sophia Smith Collection
creatorOf Nichols, Frederick Doveton. Papers of Frederick D. Nichols [manuscript], 1950-1990. University of Virginia. Library
referencedIn Photographer File, ca. 1882-present © 2011 New-York Historical Society
creatorOf Black, James Wallace, 1825-1896,. Henry Cabot Lodge photographs, ca. 1860-1945. Massachusetts Historical Society
referencedIn Visual materials from the Booker T. Washington papers, 1889-1935, bulk 1897-1915 Library of Congress. Prints and Photographs Division
referencedIn Charles Henry Caffin papers, circa 1883-1973, bulk 1883-1918 Archives of American Art
creatorOf Johnston, Frances B.. Johnston, Frances B. : [photography bio file]. Metropolitan Museum of Art, Thomas J. Watson Library
referencedIn Records of the Office of the Secretary of War, 1791 - 1948. Records of Special Assistant Emmett J. Scott, 10/1917 - 1/1919 National Archives Library, National Archives Records Administration
creatorOf Johnston, Frances Benjamin. Johnston, Frances Benjamin : [photography bio file]. Metropolitan Museum of Art, Thomas J. Watson Library
creatorOf Caffin, Charles Henry, 1854-1918. Charles Henry Caffin papers, circa 1883-1973, bulk 1883-1918. Smithsonian Archives of American Art
referencedIn Waddy B. Wood Papers, 1885-1941, (bulk 1913-1935) Library of Congress. Manuscript Division
referencedIn Records of the National Park Service, 1785 - 2006. National Register of Historic Places and National Historic Landmarks Program Records, 2013 - 2017 National Archives Library, National Archives Records Administration
creatorOf Whitelaw, Robert N. S., 1905-. Photographs for Charleston, come hell or high water, ca. 1885-ca. 1989. College of Charleston, Marlene and Nathan Addlestone Library
referencedIn Wood, Waddy B. (Waddy Butler), 1869-1944. Papers of Waddy B. Wood, 1885-1941 (bulk 1913-1935). Library of Congress
creatorOf Frances Benjamin Johnston Collection, 1935-1938 University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Library. North Carolina Collection.
creatorOf Littlejohn, Benjamin Franklin. Papers, 1897-1954. Independence Seaport Museum
referencedIn Bureau of Vocational Information (New York, N.Y.). Records, 1908-1932 (inclusive). Arthur and Elizabeth Schlesinger Library on the History of Women in America‏
referencedIn Frances Benjamin Johnston Papers, 1855-1956, (bulk 1890-1945) Library of Congress. Manuscript Division
referencedIn Records, 1908-1932 Arthur and Elizabeth Schlesinger Library on the History of Women in America‏
creatorOf Levy, Albert. Historic architecture and landscape image collection, ca. 1865-1973. Aurora University, Phillips Library
creatorOf Johnston, Frances Benjamin, 1864-1952. Frances Benjamin Johnston papers, 1855-1956 (bulk 1890-1945). Library of Congress. Manuscript Division
creatorOf Johnston, Frances Benjamin, 1864-1952,. Autograph letter signed from Frances Benjamin Johnson, London, to Augustin Daly [manuscript], 1897 August 18. Folger Shakespeare Library
creatorOf Caffin, Charles Henry, 1854-1918. Charles Henry Caffin papers, ca. 1883-1973. Smithsonian Archives of American Art
creatorOf Division of Nutritional Sciences,. Division of Nutritional Sciences collection of photographs and biographies of scientists, 1716-1984. Campbell University, Wiggins Memorial Library
Role Title Holding Repository
Relation Name
alumnusOrAlumnaOf Académie Julian corporateBody
correspondedWith Adams, Henry, 1838-1918 person
correspondedWith Allen, Nellie person
correspondedWith Bain, George Grantham, 1865-1944 person
correspondedWith Berg, Charles I., 1856-1926 person
correspondedWith Bok, Edward William, 1863-1930 person
associatedWith Boone, Samuel Moyle. person
correspondedWith Bottomley, William Lawrence, 1883-1951 person
correspondedWith Branch, Zelda person
correspondedWith Brock, H. I. (Henry Irving), 1876-1961 person
associatedWith Bureau of Vocational Information corporateBody
associatedWith Bureau of Vocational Information (New York, N.Y.) corporateBody
associatedWith Caffin, Charles Henry, 1854-1918. person
correspondedWith Cameron, Elizabeth, 1857-1944 person
correspondedWith Campbell, Edmund S. (Edmund Schureman), 1884-1950 person
correspondedWith Carman, Bliss, 1861-1929 person
correspondedWith Chamberlin, Jo Hubbard person
correspondedWith Cleveland, Frances Folsom, 1864-1947 person
correspondedWith Cortelyou, George B. (George Bruce), 1862-1940 person
correspondedWith Cret, Paul Philippe, 1876-1945 person
correspondedWith Daly, Augustin, 1838-1899 person
associatedWith Division of Nutritional Sciences, person
correspondedWith Dreiser, Theodore, 1871-1945 person
correspondedWith Eastman, George, 1854-1932 person
associatedWith Exposition universelle internationale de 1900 (Paris, France) corporateBody
correspondedWith Frissell, Hollis Burke, 1851-1917 person
correspondedWith Gay, Walter, 1856-1937 person
associatedWith Hagan, Cornelia Benjamin. person
correspondedWith Hearst, Phoebe Apperson, 1842-1919 person
associatedWith Hewitt, Mattie Edwards, d. 1956. person
correspondedWith Hinton, A. Horsley (Alfred Horsley), 1863-1908 person
correspondedWith Holland, Leicester Bodine, 1882-1952 person
correspondedWith Hornblower, Joseph C. (Joseph Coerten), 1848-1908 person
correspondedWith Johnson, B. F. (Benjamin Franklin), 1856-1921 person
associatedWith Johnston, Frances Antoinette Benjamin. person
associatedWith Johnston, Francis Benjamin, 1864-1852 person
correspondedWith Käsebier, Gertrude, 1852-1934 person
correspondedWith Keppel, Frederick P. (Frederick Paul), 1875-1943 person
correspondedWith Kindler, Hans, 1892-1949 person
correspondedWith Laughlin, Clara E. (Clara Elizabeth), 1873-1941 person
correspondedWith Leland, Waldo Gifford, 1879-1966 person
associatedWith Littlejohn, Benjamin Franklin. person
associatedWith Louisiana Purchase Exposition (1904 : St. Louis, Mo.) corporateBody
correspondedWith Lumière, Antoine, 1842-1911 person
correspondedWith Mahoney, Leslie Nell Savage, 1890-1986 person
correspondedWith Marshall, James Rush, 1851-1927 person
correspondedWith McKim, Charles Follen, 1847-1909 person
correspondedWith Merriam, John C. (John Campbell), 1869-1945 person
correspondedWith Mitchell, Margaret, 1900-1949 person
correspondedWith Moore, Charles, 1855-1942 person
associatedWith Nichols, Frederick Doveton. person
correspondedWith Olmsted Associates corporateBody
correspondedWith Olmsted, Frederick Law, 1822-1903 person
associatedWith Pan-American Exposition (1901 : Buffalo, N.Y.) corporateBody
correspondedWith Patterson, Augusta Owen person
correspondedWith Penfield, Edward, 1866-1925 person
correspondedWith Reed, Ethel person
correspondedWith Schütze, Eva Watson, 1867-1935 person
correspondedWith Stieglitz, Alfred, 1864-1946 person
correspondedWith Tarbell, Ida M. (Ida Minerva), 1857-1944 person
correspondedWith Thompson, Mills, 1875-1944 person
associatedWith Van Vactor, David, 1906-1994. person
correspondedWith Wanamaker, John, 1838-1922 person
associatedWith Ward, Catharine Weed Barnes, 1851-1913. person
correspondedWith Ward, H. Snowden (Henry Snowden), 1865-1911 person
correspondedWith Waterman, Thomas Tileston, 1900-1951 person
correspondedWith Whigham, H. J. (Henry James), 1869-1954 person
correspondedWith Woodbury, Walter E. person
associatedWith Wood, Waddy B. (Waddy Butler), 1869-1944. person
associatedWith World's Columbian Exposition (1893 : Chicago, Ill.) corporateBody
Place Name Admin Code Country
New York City NY US
District of Columbia DC US
Grafton WV US
New Orleans LA US
Subject
Women photographers
Architecture
Gardens
Photography
Portrait photography
Photography--Studios and dark rooms
Photojournalism
Photography, Artistic
Historic buildings
Pictorialism (Photography movement)
Architectural photography
Occupation
Photojournalists
Illustrator
Lecturers
Photographers
Function

Person

Birth 1864-01-15

Death 1952-05-16

Female

Americans

English

Information

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SNAC ID: 1906097