Frances Benjamin Johnston


Frances Benjamin Johnston

Have you ever heard of Frances Benjamin Johnston?

Well, neither have I until today.

Here is what the Library of Congress has to say about Frances:

Frances Benjamin Johnston (1864-1952) was one of the first American women to achieve prominence as a photographer. Trained at the Académie Julian in Paris, she studied photography upon her return to Washington, D.C., in the mid-1880s and opened a professional studio circa 1890. Her family’s social position gave Johnston access to the First Family and leading Washington political figures and launched her career as a photojournalist and portrait photographer. Johnston turned to garden and estate photography in 1910s.”  You can read more about her HERE.

The picture above was taken in 1896.  Frances is seated in front of the fireplace of her studio.

Frances took many self portraits.


Frances Benjamin Johnston in 1905

Frances Benjamin Johnston, 1864-1952 3

Frances Benjamin Johnston

Frances Benjamin Johnston, 1864-1952, with three male friendsFrances poses with two male friends.  Frances is seated on the left and dressed as a man.

Frances Benjamin Johnston (right), full-length self-portrait dressed as a man with false moustache, posed with two unidentified women, one of whom is also dressed as a manAgain dressed as a man Frances is in the middle on the right.

Self_portrait_by_the_American_photographer_Frances_Benjamin_JohnstonFrances dressed as a man.

I am really not sure what to make of this.

Frances Benjamin Johnston, 1864-1952

Frances Benjamin Johnston


Frances Benjamin Johnston

Susan B. Anthomy by Frances Benjamin Johnston

Susan B. Anthony

Frances took these two photos of Susan B. Anthony.  If you do not know who Susan B. Anthony I would suggest that you look it up.


Susan B. Anthony

William McKinley

William McKinley

Frances took many pictures of white house officials.  Above is President William McKinley.

The last portrait of McKinley, Buffalo, N.Y. Sept. 5, 1901

William McKinley

It just so happens that Frances took this last photo of President McKinley.  It was taken on November 5, 1901.   Days later McKinley was assassinated.

Don M. Dickson - Postmaster General, 1887-1889

Don M. Dickson

Frances also took this photo of Postmaster General Don Dickson.


George Washington Carver

Frances took photos of many notables.  Above is George Washington Carver.

Mrs. Cleveland with ladies of the Cabinet 1894Mrs Cleveland with other ladies of the cabinet in 1894.

Indian youth in Indian costume, Hampton, Va.An American Indian youth.

Cabinet Room, White House, Aug. 12, 1898. Secy. of State William R. Day signing

The cabinet room of the White House

The cabinet room in the White House.  August 12, 1898

Inauguration of Pres. McKinley March 4 1901The inauguration of President McKinley.

Frances Benjamin Johnston, 1864-1952 2

Frances Benjamin Johnston

Frances Benjamin Johnston (1864 – 1952)

An American photographer


  1. Callaluna says:

    Once again, you find something incredible! This lady must have been a piece of work! You can see it in her face. I have always been fascinated by women who pressed ahead with their dreams in spite of society’s idea of what “their place” was. The writer George Sand comes to mind. And Madame de Stahl. Sand was a prolific writer and the lover of Frederic Chopin, de Stahl had a brilliant salon where all of the most erudite and controversial people in Paris came to talk. Thank you Xenia!

    • Xenia says:

      Thank you for providing me with those names Callaluna. Now I MUST look those two people up. I really enjoy reading about people who insist on being themselves, even if it means paving a new path. I am really intrigued by the life of Frances Benjamin Johnston. I want to found out what made her tick. What besides photography were her passions.

      I would love to be a part of a salon where erudite and controversial people come to talk.

  2. RAFrenzy says:

    She’s somewhat well known for her photographic work. I’ve seen some of it at the MoMA, and now that I’ve seen your piece, I would love to read about her personally. This looks interesting.

    • Xenia says:

      RAFrenzy, you just made me go on Amazon and buy the book…HA! 🙂
      Thank you for the link!

      It is good to know that she well known, at least somewhat. Frances was an outstanding photographer. Thanks to her we have thousands more proofs of what life was like during 19th and early 20th century. The value of photography can never be overestiamted.

Leave a Reply