Johnston in her studio
Frances Benjamin Johnston, with Maddie (her mother), before a painted backdrop of the Cliff House in San Francisco, California
Frances Benjamin Johnston's house, 1132 Bourbon Street, New Orleans, Louisiana
After attending Notre-Dame Convent, Govanston, Maryland, she studied painting and drawing at the Academie Julien, Paris (1883-85), then at the Art Students League in Washington, D.C. She served an apprenticeship with Dr. Thomas William Smillie, director of the Smithsonian Institution's Photography Division.
Frances Johnston first worked as a magazine correspondent, ca. 1889, illustrating her articles first with her drawings, then later with her photographs. Her many commissions included photographing the Washington, D.C., school system for the Paris Exposition of 1900, Admiral Dewey's victorious return from Manila (in Naples), construction of the New Theatre in New York (1909), the architecture of Fredericksburg, Virginia, and its environs (1927) and numerous important buildings and homes of wealth.
In the early 1890s Frances Johnston opened a portrait studio in Washington, D.C., and around the turn of the century took on a partner for a few years, Mattie Edward Hewitt. Johnston was the unofficial White House photographer through the administrations of Cleveland, Harrison, McKinley, Roosevelt, and Taft. She also traveled widely and continued to write for such publications as Lester's Magazine and Town and Country.
George Washington Carver (front row, center) poses with fellow faculty of Tuskegee Institute1902
Signing of the Protocol
(Marking the cessation of hostilities between the US and C...)
(wedding photograph )1906
Natalie Clifford Barney
(between ca. 1890 and ca. 1910)
Self-portrait by Johnston, dressed as a man, sporting a fake mustache and holding a bicycle1890
Self Portrait (as New Woman), an 1896 self-portrait taken in her Washington, DC studio
Three-quarter length portrait of educator Daniel Coit Gilman1890
Booker T. Washington1895
Ava Lowle Willing
First Lady Edith Roosevelt
Frances Johnston was an out-of-town member of the New York Camera Club and an honorary member of the American Institute of Architects (1945). She joined clubs: Women's National Press, Arts (Washington).
Quotes from others about the person
Ann Tucker in The Woman's Eye notes: "Even if her photographs were not as beautiful as they unquestionably are, her careful, expansive documentation of the events and customs of her day would be invaluable to historians."