Tuesday, August 03, 2010

the tower

In the late 1930s, Frances Benjamin Johnston took this photo of a building called "The Tower" on Chartres Street in her home town, New Orleans, Louisiana.*

{Caption: The Tower, 1015 Chartres St., New Orleans, Orleans County, Louisiana, 1937-38}

This sunny courtyard was a place of work, not relaxation. You see lots of wash tubs, buckets, and clotheslines, but no chairs and precious few amenities. There's string, twine, and rope for drying clothes, plentiful pipes to supply water and drain it, a couple of mops. There are also a couple of crab nets and some interesting details.

Here are some cropped close-ups.


Johnston took a second photo from the same vantage about an hour later. You can tell the time by the shadow on the nail that's protruding from the wall. Where the first photo has a woman washing, this one has a sleeping cat. Here is that photo plus some details from it.

Johnston belonged to a generation of women photographers that preceded Dorothea Lange and the others of the 1930s. Her long career had begun in the 1890s and by the '30s she had begun to specialize in archtechtural work. I've given links to sources on her life and work a bit further below.


This photo shows Johnston and her 8 x 10 view camera at about the time she took the two photos.

{Caption: Frances Benjamin Johnston, 1864-1952, half length, facing front, adjusting lens of large tripod camera, in front of the Arts Club, 2017 Eye Street, Washington, D.C.}

This studio shot shows her in 1896.

{Caption: Frances Benjamin Johnston, full-length portrait, seated in front of fireplace, facing left, holding cigarette in one hand and a beer stein in the other, in her Washington, D.C. studio}

Here's how she looked in 1950.

{Caption: Frances Benjamin Johnston, ca. 1950, Full length, seated outdoors, facing slightly right; in New Orleans, La.}


Some sources:

JOHNSTON, Frances Benjamin on rleggat.com/photohistory

Frances Benjamin Johnston, article by Kristin Hanneman on photography.suite101.com

Frances Benjamin Johnston, by Gerald Boerner

Frances Benjamin Johnston, a bio page on the Prints and Photographs Division web pages

Frances Benjamin Johnston Photograph Collection at the University of Virginia Library

Photographs and papers of Frances Benjamin Johnston, an overview at the Library of Congress home page

The Frances Benjamin Johnston Exhibit on Clio Visualizing History

Frances Benjamin Johnston, from Wikipedia



* The photo, and the others on this page, come from collections of the Prints and Photos Div. of the Library of Congress. This image was scanned from the LC 8 x 10 in. negative, and it's in the public domain. Call Number: LC-J7-LA- 1035 [P&P] http://www.loc.gov/pictures/item/csas200801239/ I first saw this photo on the Shorpy blog, where, as usual, there are some interesting comments:

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