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.
This studio shot shows her in 1896.
Here's how she looked in 1950.
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: