American Treasures of the Library of Congress: Memory, Exhibit Object Focus

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A Pioneering Photojournalist

[Theodore] Roosevelt Children at Roll Call Inspection at White House
Frances Benjamin Johnston (1864-1952)
[Theodore] Roosevelt Children at Roll Call Inspection at White House
(Archie, left and Quentin, right), ca. 1901
Gelatin silver print
Prints & Photographs Division
Gift/purchase from the Frances Benjamin Johnston estate, 1953 (46B.5)

images/at0046.6s.jpg
Frances Benjamin Johnston (1864-1952)
Mechanical Drawing, Hampton Institute, 1899
Gelatin silver print
Prints & Photographs Division
Gift/purchase from the Frances Benjamin Johnston estate, 1953 (46.6)

Students working in print shop
Frances Benjamin Johnston
Students working in print shop,
Tuskegee Institute, Ala.,
ca. 1902.
LC-USZ62-24346

Tuskegee History Class
Frances Benjamin Johnston
Tuskegee History Class
ca. 1902
LC-USZ62-64712
Photographic prints
Prints & Photographs Division
(46.7, 46B.6)

 

A talented artist and self-promoter of the first order, Frances Benjamin Johnston made a place for herself and paved the way for other women in the emerging field of photojournalism when she began making portraits and photographs for magazines and newspapers in 1889. She exhibited with the leading Pictorialist art photographers between 1898 and 1901 but returned to magazine and news work until about 1910, when then she turned to garden and architectural photography.

Using her parents' social connections and her own talent and initiative, Johnston earned the title "The American Court Photographer" by photographing the administrations of Presidents Harrison, Cleveland, McKinley, Roosevelt, and Taft between 1889 and 1913. President Theodore Roosevelt's children Quentin and Archie provided some of her most appealing photo opportunities.

Photographs of The Hampton Institute for display in Paris at the World's Exposition in 1900 form one of Johnston's most famous photojournalism assignments. Forty of the 150 photographs she produced in December 1899 appeared in the April 1900 issue of The American Monthly, timed to coincide with the opening of the Fair. "Mechanical Drawing" is one of the 150 images that emphasize the importance of progressive education and vocational training at the school.

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