Frances Benjamin Johnston started her life in 1864 and continued it for 88 years. For about 60 of those, she had a camera in her hand. And in the 1920s, she used it to photograph gardens in New York City
Before turning her lens on landscapes, Frances grew up in one : wild and wonderful West Virginia. After a childhood move to DC, she studied art in Paris, returning to the US to open a portraiture studio and photograph Presidents Harrison, Cleveland, McKinley, and (T.) Roosevelt as well as prominent figures of the day like Booker T. Washington and Elizabeth Stanton. This is how she saw herself, on December 31, 1895 at age 31:
Not a wallflower, apparently. (No horticultural pun intended).
Frances was an enormously prolific photographer of many subjects. In 1945 she became an honorary member of the American Institute of Architects for her architecture photography. She traveled widely and left a tremendous record of portraits, architecture and garden photography, which is held by various museums and also in the Library of Congress's archives.
Have a look at the New York City gardens she saw and preserved for us on hand-colored lantern slides.
1. Turtle Bay Gardens, 227-249 East 48th Street and 228-246 East 49th Street (common gardens) and the Sorchan residence and gardens, 228 East 49th Street, NYC. 1920.
2. Dr. Henry Alexander Murray, Jr., house, 129 East 69th Street, New York, New York. 1922.
3. Charles Clinton Marshall house, 117 West 55th Street, New York, New York. Tea house/sleeping porch. 1921-1922.
4. “Jones Wood” townhouses, East 65th and East 66th Streets, between Lexington and Third Avenues, New York, New York. 1921.
5. Laura Stafford Stewart house, 205 West 13th Street, NYC.1922.
In our next post on this photographer, we'll take a look at some of her American country and seaside garden photos. [Note : This is a repost of our April 2016 blog entry].
To see more city garden photographs and for more information about Frances, follow this link : https://www.loc.gov/collections/frances-benjamin-johnston/about-this-collection/