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Frances Benjamin Johnston - The Hampton Album

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Frances Benjamin Johnston - The Hampton Album

Sarah Hermanson Meister

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Comprised of 159 extraordinary platinum plates, Frances Benjamin Johnston’s Hampton Album documents life at the Hampton Institute marking a pivotal moment in this historically black university’s history .

Frances Benjamin Johnston (American, 1864-1952), one of the first women in America to work as a professional photographer, was commissioned in 1899 to photograph the Hampton Institute, then a thirty year old institution dedicated to the practical and academic education of freed slaves and Native Americans. What became known as the Hampton Album – comprised of 159 platinum plates exhibited in 1900 at the Exposition Universelle in Paris – is Johnston’s signature work, and has become a touchstone for contemporary historians and artists. The leather-bound album was discovered serendipitously by Lincoln Kirstein in a Washington, D.C. bookstore during World War II and donated to MoMA in 1965.

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