History with its flickering lamp stumbles along the trail of the past, trying to reconstruct its scenes, to revive its echoes, and kindle with pale gleams the passion of former days. ~Winston Churchill

04 February, 2014

Indigo Agonies

Frances Benjamin Johnston (1864-1952) was one of the first prominent female professional photographers in the United States, working mostly as a photojournalist and portrait photographer. The Library of Congress has about 20,000 of her prints and 3,700 thousand of her negatives, dating from the 1880s to 1940s (you can find the digitized photographs of the collection here). 

This post focuses on just a portion of her early work, printed in cyanotype form. I'm not sure how often these cyanotype prints were intended as a final form,  or if they were used purely as a proof prints or reference prints for negatives (as, for instance, these cyanotypes were). Some, it seems were put into personal books made by Johnston. 

Most photographs were taken in or around Washington D.C.


Library of Congress

The cover of one of these personal books, and the source of the title, "Indigo Agonies", which is great. The book, made in 1888, is from Johnston's very earliest days as a photographer; she became a professional shortly afterwards. The photograph depicts Johnston at her camera (see second to last image in this post). Source




Library of Congress

Photograph of women being photographed, ca. 1890. Source




Library of Congress

Students sketching at the edge of a pond, about 1899. Source





Library of Congress

Men in a salt mine, ca. 1893. Source




Library of Congress

Students in geology class, about 1899. Source




Library of Congress

Children watching Johnston's stage coach pass, Virginia, 1900-1901. Source




Library of Congress

The Willard Hotel Bar, 1901-1901. Source




Library of Congress

Garden of the Georgetown convent, 1892. Source




Library of Congress

Men near an entrance to the Willard Hotel, 1901-1910. Source




Library of Congress

High school students doing science experiments, about 1899. Source




Library of Congress

High school students in art class, about 1899. Source




Library of Congress

Female students playing basketball, about 1899. Source




Library of Congress

Ballroom at Mary Scott Townsend House, ca. 1910. Source




Library of Congress

Portrait of Miss Mary Olmsted Clarke, ca. 1903. Source




Library of Congress

A man playing a pipe (Pan), 1885-1900. Source




Library of Congress

Theodore Roosevelt on horseback in a Rough Rider uniform, 1898. Source




Library of Congress

This is titled, "Conversation lesson, subject: the chair." Pennsylvania, 1901. Source




Library of Congress

Girls doing some kind of gymnastics, about 1899. Source




Library of Congress

Frances Bennjamin Johnston photographing a man on a balcony of the State, War, and Navy building, 1888. Source




Library of Congress

Frances Benjamin Johnston in her studio/office, ca. 1896. Source



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