Monday, April 16, 2012

Garden Photographs by Frances Benjamin Johnston

The Library of Congress today is releasing online the digital images of a rare collection of more than 1,000 hand-colored, glass-plate lantern slides of American gardens taken a century ago by one of the first professional female photographers to achieve international prominence, Frances Benjamin Johnston. This online collection expands the book significantly by providing hundreds of additional images that reveal more fully such beautiful and vanished places as the color-themed gardens of the artists Albert and Adele Herter in East Hampton, N.Y. The collection also includes urban sites in New York City and estates from Pasadena, Calif., to Brookline, Mass. These remarkable color slides have not been seen since Johnston last projected them during lectures in the 1910s to 1930s to rally Americans to grow gardens on tenement lots, in row-house yards and in parks, which had deteriorated from industrial pollution and neglect during the Gilded Age.
Johnston has long been acknowledged as an important photographer for her many contributions to early photojournalism and documentation of historic architecture. But her front and center role in the Garden Beautiful movement as an advocate and artist working with garden clubs, horticultural societies and museums has been neglected, until now. Johnston advocated for gardening the nation back to "America the Beautiful," one elm, one rose and one fountain and shady terrace at a time.