In a picture taken in her Washington studio, photographer Frances Benjamin Johnston looks the part she set out to play: an artist ready to take on the world.
But if the 1896 pose with flashing petticoat, wispy cigarette and beer stein was meant to make a shocking declaration of bohemian genius, the world of fine art photography was not impressed.
Joseph Keiley, a disciple of Alfred Stieglitz, deemed Johnston’s art compromised by her work as a commercial photographer — “retarded by . . . an onerous professional life.”
The rest of us can reassess that view on Friday when the Library of Congress puts online its digitized collection of Johnston’s beguiling images of gardens, more than 1,130 glass-lantern slides, two-thirds of them hand-colored and created between 1895 and 1935.