Frances Benjamin Johnston


When I did a post on southern gothic photographer Clarence John Laughlin, oh, two years ago, one of my top favorite commenters, Lesle, mentioned that I might want to check out the work of Frances Benjamin Johnston.  Johnston’s story alone is worth looking up—she was a pioneer female photographer who started out by capturing images of society, taking photos of everyone from famous authors to presidents.  She was in big demand, but eventually her interests shifted and she started photographing buildings of the South. In the early twentieth century, lots of plantations were decaying, while kudzu was swallowing up sharecroppers’ shacks and farmhouses.  Johnston saw the need for photographic documentation, so she set off on a southern roadtrip, taking back roads and a lot of photos, and becoming an early historic preservationist in the process.

Since it’s Halloween, I’m especially drawn to the creepier photos. Abandoned houses, spanish moss, dancers dressed up as wood nymphs, which don’t have anything to do with Johnston’s southern architecture series, but sort of fit the vibe . . .

If you want some more creepy South, you might want to check out today’s Southerly post. It’s all about a haunted house in Savannah that (spoiler alert) probably isn’t even all that haunted after all.






All photos found on Shorpy and The Library of Congress.

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3 Comments

  1. Posted October 31, 2012 at 4:11 pm | Permalink

    Goodness these are beautiful photos. I love the idea of her driving along dusty back roads stopping off anywhere interesting and snapping photos. That would be such an incredible way to spend a summer! When I see these beautiful old homes and buildings falling apart it breaks my heart, but at least there is some documentation.

  2. Posted October 31, 2012 at 6:04 pm | Permalink

    Beautiful photos!

  3. Posted November 7, 2012 at 8:08 pm | Permalink

    Thanks for this wonderful post! And all of your wonderful posts! I lived in Atlanta for a few years, making the most of my time there by exploring what I could of the South. So, when I need an infusion, I come here.

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