Thursday, February 14, 2013

Preeminent Photographers

On this date (Feb 14) in 1941, Francis Allen died at the age of 86. Her sister, Mary Allen, died just four days later at the age of 82. The two deaf sisters were the foremost women photographers in the country about 100 years ago. Frances and Mary Allen attracted international attention by capturing images of their simple, rural community in New England. Them became photographers when progressive deafness forced them to give up teaching. The Allen sisters gained formal recognition at the Washington Salon and Art Photographic Exhibition of 1896. The Smithsonian Institution purchased two of their photographs for its new division of photographic history because of the exhibit. The sisters became friends with fellow exhibitor Frances Benjamin Johnston. He was the White House photographer in the Cleveland and McKinley administrations and became a critical link in their career. The sister's work went on to be shown in these major exhibits:

1897 - Royal Photographic Society in London
1900 - Third International Congress of Photography in Paris
1900 - St. Petersburg and Moscow
1907 - Canadian Pictorialist Exhibition in Montreal
1908 - The Art Institute of Chicago

In 1901, they were called "The foremost women photographers in America." The sisters continued their photography through the early 1920s.

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