All ETDs from UAB

Advisory Committee Chair

Jessica K Dallow

Advisory Committee Members

Lucy Curzon

Heather McPherson

Document Type

Thesis

Date of Award

2012

Degree Name by School

Master of Arts (MA) College of Arts and Sciences

Abstract

At the end of the nineteenth century, Frances Benjamin Johnston's photographs offer alternative images of the American woman that posed a stark contrast to the contrived illustrations found in magazines and the paintings by American artists found on museum and gallery walls. At the same time that illustrators and artists sought to reign in or tame women's new freedoms, Johnston's photographs presented another type of woman for real American women to identify with as well as giving the New Woman an outlet for representing herself. As a New Woman herself, Johnston was able to document the changing society and the blurring of (previously strict) gender roles through photography, a medium just as modern as the New Woman. This thesis discusses the ways that Johnston promoted the ideal of the New Woman through her portrait photography and her self-portraits, her involvement in the Paris Exposition of 1900 as curator of the all-women's photography exhibition, and her encouragement of women photographers, both amateur and professional, in popular literature. Johnston's studio was of particular importance as a space that allowed both the sitter and photographer to explore different roles through portraiture. Her studio allowed her--and those she associated with--a space in which to create, experiment, and socialize in ways that the Victorian women before her never could.

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