Photographer of the Day: Belle Johnson

Belle Johnson

b. 1864, d. 1945

We’re skipping out on contemporary photography this time to talk about Belle Johnson, a woman photographer who does not get the attention she deserves. She is famous, but in the kind of way that no one cares. You get me?

Btw, we’re not talking about this Belle

We’re talking about THIS Belle

Just had to clear that up.

I adore this woman. She graduated the top of her class at her college, and went on to teach, but was like “nah man, not for me,” and left that job. SHE LEFT A JOB BECAUSE SHE DIDN’T LIKE IT. How many people go to school for a job that they don’t like, but keep working at it anyway? But yes, homegurl quit being a teacher and went to work at a photography studio. She ended up buying the studio within a year, and taught herself how to take nice photos with photography magazines.

Talk about self-motivation. It took me two hours to finally shower today, and Belle here is buying studios and wrecking expectations. Oh, and get this, her studio burned down. So she got a new one. Say what?

Johnson was one of the founding fathers mothers of the Photographers’ Association in Missouri, traveled around to keep up with the latest photo knowledge, and won countless awards for her photography. She is one of my biggest inspirations, because it seems like she did it all and she did it well. Good job, Belle. I wanna be like you.

But let’s look at the work that made Belle Johnson so important:

Three Women



Johnson was obviously the first photos-of-cats lady, way before icanhascheezburger got on that. She has a lot of pictures of kitties, so if you’re into that, go ahead and look ’em up.

The thing about her work is that while she was working as a studio photographer, she was also producing her own work. That takes a TON of self-discipline, since a lot of professionals feel like they just don’t have the time to make work they want to make. But, we all know that Belle was not lacking self-discipline, so there ya go.

Her photo Three Women, is one of my all time favorites. I used to have EXTREMELY long hair, so I was like “At least my hair wasn’t THAT long.”

There you have it. Belle Johnson is important and don’t you forget it. There aren’t nearly enough women photographers from her period that are celebrated, so keep her in mind.

The next photographer of the day is another one of my favorite ladies, Barbara Kruger. Keep an eye out!

Happy Shooting!

Photographer of the Day: Julia Margaret Cameron

Julia Margaret Cameron

b. 1815 d. 1879

One of my favorite ladies ever is Julia Margaret Cameron. What’s also cool about her is her great-niece is Virginia Woolf, who is one of my favorite authors.

So, why is she remembered in the history or photography? She took it up later in life, when she was 48 years old, when her daughter gifted her a camera. Her work was mostly portraits of family and even famous figures, like Charles Darwin and her neighbor, Alfred Lord Tennyson (who brought people to Cameron’s house to view her work– what a pal!) She was most definitely the best “amateur” of her time, but man, I wouldn’t label someone with her success as such. She made sure to copyright all of her photos– hardly amateur, my dear Watson.

Cameron’s signature was soft focusing, which was pretty helpful considering one of her many goals was to capture beauty. Nothing says pretty like soft focus portraiture of pretty ladies. Another thing she is known for is using her maid (Mary Hillier) frequently as a subject in her illustrative work.

Cameron was really into creating scenes from history or literature, like her piece Ophelia, Study no 2. Because of their softness, they’ve been oftentimes compared to oil paintings. So, the painterly-ness of her images and how she constructed images based on narrative, they are dubbed illustrations.

She really enjoyed the concept of a woman’s choice between life or love. Morbid much? That’s Victorian for you.

Julia Margaret Cameron is a staple in photographic history, and it is special to note that she is a woman– it’s rare for women in the past to be credited in the world of art, and Cameron is one of the first “famous” female photographers, like Jane Martha St. John and Constance Fox Talbot, and even they aren’t mentioned as much as Cameron. So my lady here must have been super duper epic– well, it’s obvious she was.

Cameron is my gurl, and I only wish I could use soft focusing as well as she did. Don’t forget this lady, because she is truly a treasure.

So enough of my gushing over Cameron. Next PotD will be Rineke Dijkstra, another one of my favorite ladies.

Happy Shooting!