PHYLLIS ODESSEY

what a woman can do with a camera

FYI: Eighty-eight year-old Frances Benjamin Johnston (b.1864) died in 1952. Of the woman often referred to as America’s first female photojournalist, Smithsonian Magazine contributor Victoria Olsen wrote, “[Frances Benjamin] Johnston’s bohemian artist still urges women forward at the same time her proper Victorian lady reminds us all to look back at what we have achieved.”   I came across Frances Benjamin Johnston, researching Beatrix Farrand.

In 1897, she published an article in the Ladies’ Home Journal urging women to consider photography as a means of supporting themselves. “To an energetic, ambitious woman with even ordinary opportunities, success is always possible,” she wrote, adding that “hard, intelligent and conscientious work seldom fails to develop small beginnings into large results.”

Frances Benjamin Johnston given her first camera by George Eastman, a close friend of her family.

She received training in photography and dark-room techniques from Thomas Smillie, director of photography at the Smithsonian.

“It is another pet theory with me that there are great possibilities in photography as a profitable and pleasant occupation for women, and I feel that my success helps to demonstrate this, and it is for this reason that I am glad to have other women know of my work.” Frances Benjamin Johnston, 1893

 

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