Every Photo is a story: the photos of Frances Benjamin Johnston

Frances Benjamin Johnston, a self portrait.

I recently got five links from the Library of Congress for the series Every Photo is a story. In this series Kristi Finefield, reference librarian in the Prints and Photographs Division, and Sam Watters, architectural and landscape historian, take a look at the photos made Frances Benjamin Johnston,  (1864–1952), one of the first female photo-journalist who rose to prominence. She was an expert at making hand-painted photographs. She was a champion of the City Beautiful Movement to restore beauty to an industrial America through garden design and was very well connected. Such beautification could thus promote a harmonious social order that would increase the quality of life.
These two go together as she had her photographer ‘improved’ to the wishes of the customers by having them painted. Even then reality sometimes needed to be improved upon.  How this worked and why this was done will be told during the series.

Watters has worked with the library of congress to examine no less that 1100 of Frances Benjamin Johnston’s photos, which she donated to the Library of Congress.
Library of Congess: Every story is a Photo:

Frances Benjamin Johnston, full-length portrait, seated in front of fireplace, 1896

Part 1: Start to Read a Photograph

Part 2: Get to Know the Photographer

Part 3: Consider How the Photos Were Made

Part 4: Interpret Stories You Discover

Part 5: Explore the Photographer’s Era


For fun, I made my own look alike picture.. It is made using second life.


More links

Frances Benjamin Johnston

Sam Watters’ book.

City Beautiful movement

Library of congress

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