British photographic history

Information and discussion on all aspects of British photographic history

I have been involved in two projects recently which might be interesting to some of the members of this community. Over the past few years I have been compiling a bibliography, with excerpts and annotations, of articles about photography published in America and in England from 1839 to 1869; describing its practitioners and practices, and displaying the impacts of those activities and events upon the general culture of that time. I have reviewed more than 800 magazines and newspapers published in the United States and in Great Britain from January 1839 through December 1869 and indexed more than 300 of these titles which contained articles in which photography was featured, discussed or mentioned in some illuminating manner, or which acknowledged the use of the medium in the creation of at least some of their illustrations.

Although not completely finished I hope to complete this project within a year. For reasons too arcane to explain at this time this work is contained in a Microsoft Word file that is very close to 9000 pages in length when set in single-spaced 10 pt Arial typeface. I have not settled on the most effective way to publish the work. – as a self-published on-demand set of 3 or 4 volumes, or in a database on a cd disk, or as a subscription service electronic file, or with a traditional publisher, or in some manner I don’t even know about. Anyone in the community who is willing to offer advice or suggestions about the most useful formats for their purposes would be gratefully received.

The second project consists of my wife and I setting up an ETSY “store” named “vintagephotosjohnson” to sell off the collection of photographs we have gathered during the past forty years. That long ago many of these photographs were not considered to have any value and were often in danger of immediate destruction when we obtained them, on more than one occasion, one day ahead of the dumpster. Beyond the motive of preservation, as teachers of photographic history, one of our aims was to find examples that trace the history of photography from 1845 to the 1990s rather than specifically collect “rare and valuable” artwork. For us, it has always been “all about the image” and interesting images have always taken precedence over other factors that professional “collectors” display when considering their choices. Nevertheless we are posting literally hundreds of British photographs by Bedford, Frith, Valentine, Wilson and many others at the “vintagephotosjohnson” store site (As well as the works of other photographers.) To me, at least, many of these images seem “fresher” than others by similar photographers being offered by other dealers on-line, and we are trying to offer the items at prices that are reasonable for both the buyer and for us; so some good stuff is going pretty cheaply by today's standards. I am also attempting to set up a corresponding “blog” which would feature “exhibitions” from these images, excerpts from the bibliography, and discussions about photography in general. I am posting new stuff every week, so please feel free to look in on the site. I would appreciate any amplifications or comments or corrections that anyone might bring to these posted images.




William Johnson began teaching the history of photography at Harvard University in 1970
while working as a professional librarian there; and since then has taught and
worked at the School of the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, Boston College, the
Center for Creative Photography in Tucson, Arizona, the International Museum of
Photography at George Eastman House, the Visual Studies Workshop in Rochester,
NY, and elsewhere.


He wrote W. Eugene Smith: Master of the Photographic Essay (Aperture); eight of the sixteen chapters in Photography from 1839 to today George Eastman House, Rochester, NY (Taschen); The Pictures Are A Necessity:
Robert Frank in Rochester, NY November 1988
(Rochester Consortium, George Eastman House), and the self-published Horses, Sea Lions, and Other Creatures: Robert Frank, Dave Heath, Robert Heinecken and John Wood, with Susan E. Cohen.


He has organized more than thirty exhibitions and is the author or contributor to more than fifteen exhibition checklists or catalogs, including a half-dozen or so on W. Eugene Smith, as well as ... one thing just sort of led to another ...The Photography of Todd Walker; Lucien Aigner's Paris; More Than Meets the Eye: Landscape Photography 1850 – 1910 and John Wood: On the Edge of Clear Meaning.

He has also

published extensive bibliographies on the photographers Lucien Aigner, Eugene
Atget, Carl Chiarenza, Walker Evans, Robert Heinecken, William H. Rau, W.
Eugene Smith, Southworth & Hawes, Edward Weston, Whipple & Black, John
Wood, and on the 1930s journal Photo Notes. He compiled and edited the annual International Photography Index (G. K.
Hall & Co.) from 1977 to 1980 and also published Nineteenth-Century Photography: An Annotated Bibliography, 1839-1879.
(G. K. Hall & Co.) Currently he is extending the range of
Nineteenth-Century Photography: An Annotated Bibliography, 1839-1879 by
compiling a large annotated bibliography of articles that indexes, annotates
and excerpts articles from more than 800 periodical and newspaper titles
published in America and Great Britain between 1835 and 1869.

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Comment by John B Turner on June 26, 2013 at 1:06

Hi William, I've just discovered this site and it's great to see you are connected with it.

What is the current state of your latest bibliography? Have you resolved how to publish it? I'll check your website to find out.

All best,

John (now living in China). 

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