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About the Photos

Our holdings include hundreds of glass and film negatives/transparencies that we've scanned ourselves; in addition, many other photos on this site were extracted from reference images (high-resolution tiffs) in the Library of Congress research archive. (To query the database click here.) They are adjusted, restored and reworked by your webmaster in accordance with his aesthetic sensibilities before being downsized and turned into the jpegs you see here. All of these images (including "derivative works") are protected by copyright laws of the United States and other jurisdictions and may not be sold, reproduced or otherwise used for commercial purposes without permission.

© 2018 SHORPY INC.

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Le Petit Theatre: 1937

Le Petit Theatre: 1937

New Orleans circa 1937. "Le Petit Theatre du Vieux Carre, Chartres and St. Peter streets." 8x10 acetate negative by Frances Benjamin Johnston. View full size.

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A Bourbon Street Retirement

There's a excellent short biography of Frances Benjamin Johnston here. Her amazing life included, among many other things, White House Photographer to Presidents. If I may, quoting the last three paragraphs from Johnston's Clio profile.

She went about the South in a chauffeur-driven automobile locating old buildings, and it was said that she could "smell out an old colonial house five miles off the highway." Her mission was not to photograph the prominent homes of colonial America, which, she argued, had already "been photographed often and well." Rather, she sought "the old farm houses, the mills, the log cabins of the pioneers, the country stores, the taverns and inns, in short those buildings that had to do with the everyday life of the colonists." She did her work well, and two books resulted from this venture, "Early Architecture of North Carolina" and "Early Architecture of Georgia." In 1945 she was awarded an honorary membership in the American Institute of Architects.

Johnston moved to New Orleans in 1940 and entered a life of semi-retirement. Always independent, she lived a rather lonely life in her last years, but her energy did not subside. She bought a run-down house on the "respectable" end of Bourbon Street and transformed its dilapidated courtyard into a beautiful garden with a small pool. Continuing to pursue her interests in gardening, she often went out in her old Buick to give lectures. Her active days in the darkroom were over, even though she maintained a photographic work area in an alcove off her bathroom.

Age was slowing her down. She walked with a cane, and her doctor weaned her from bourbon, so she drank cherry wine instead. Even at this stage of her life she remained staunchly indomitable. "I've learned not to depend on the Lord. I'll make the changes myself." She loved to roam the French Quarter and sit in bars and talk. Once when someone recognized her as a famous photographer, she agreed, "Yes, I'm the greatest woman photographer in the world."

Thanks for introducing her to us.

Obligatory time machine view


SHORPY HISTORICAL PHOTO ARCHIVE | History in HD is a vintage photo archive featuring thousands of high-definition images from the 1850s to 1960s. (Available as fine-art prints from the Shorpy Archive.) The site is named after Shorpy Higginbotham, a teenage coal miner who lived 100 years ago.

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