Mills Thompson (1875-1944)
Miss Frances Benjamin Johnston, 1332 V St., Washington, D.C., makes a living of photographic illustration and the writing of descriptive articles for magazines, illustrated weeklies and newspapers, 1895
Poster illustration advertising Frances Benjamin Johnston’s photographic business
Ink on paper
Cabinet of American Illustration in the Library of Congress
Frances Benjamin Johnston (1864-1962) was one of the earliest American women to be a professional photographer. Trained as an artist at the Académie Julian in Paris and later at the Washington, D. C. Art Students League, Fannie, as she was called, was given her first camera by George Eastman, the inventor of Eastman Kodak cameras, who was a friend of her family. She began working as a freelance photographer in the 1890s, taking photographic portraits of friends and family and location shots while touring Europe.
Taking up work in a man’s world was not a new concept for Fannie. Her mother, Frances Antoinette Johnston, worked as a congressional journalist for the Baltimore Sun. Familiar with the Washington political scene, Fannie eventually became the official White House photographer for the Harrison, Cleveland, McKinley, T.R. Roosevelt and Taft presidential administrations.
In 1895, Fannie’s friend and fellow artist, J. Mills Thompson, created a poster to advertise her photography business. Thompson represented the fashionably clothed Fannie as an intrepid photo-journalist. She strides away from the viewer and toward the rising sun coming up over a city beyond the water (could be the Potomac) with a photographic plate carrier box in her right hand and a tripod under her left arm. Above the hat on her head, the clouds and morning mist burn off with the growing heat from the blazing sun.