A New Woman: Fanny Benjamin Johnston

Self Portrait as "New Woman"

Self Portrait as “New Woman”

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“While Johnston was running her studio in Washington, feminist campaigns to secure the vote and other rights were encouraging women to break out of their domestic roles. In 1897, she published an article in the Ladies’ Home Journal urging women to consider photography as a means of supporting themselves. “To an energetic, ambitious woman with even ordinary opportunities, success is always possible,” she wrote, adding that “hard, intelligent and conscientious work seldom fails to develop small beginnings into large results.” Johnston also used her influence to help other American female artists—for example, arranging exhibits of their work for the 1900 Paris Exposition. Her portraits of Susan B. Anthony, taken that same year, capture the stoic determination that the feminist leader needed—for half a century—to hold together the competing groups working toward women’s suffrage. And yet there is no evidence that Johnston ever participated in a feminist campaign.”  http://www.smithsonianmag.com/history-archaeology/Victorian-Womanhood-in-All-Its-Guises.html

A nice room of her own.

A nice room of her own.

American sensuality in studio.

American sensuality in studio.

Portrait of artist.

Portrait of artist.

Photographer's studio

Photographer’s studio

Images Library of Congress

Battle of the British Photography Babes


In this corner the ugly duckling of her family with the nickname “Talent.” Julia Cameron was given her first camera in her 40’s. The rest is history. “I longed to arrest all the beauty that came before me and at length the longing has been satisfied.” Julia Cameron


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And in this corner Lady Clementina Hawarden (it is suggested that her immune system was weakened by constant contact with the photographic chemicals causing her death).

Francesca Spickernell, photography specialist at Bonhams, said: “It was pioneering for a woman to be taking photos like this at this point in the 19th century. Her output was prolific and she won awards for her work. She struck out into areas and depicted moods unknown to the art photographers of her age.”

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And who wins the prize? Anyone willing to be judge?