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Laura Wexler : The Photographer Of America's Court

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Laura Wexler She was called the photographer of America's court because she had taken lots of portraits of senators and judges and people in five successive administrations in Washington. She had entre to the White House because of personal connections and because she had rapidly built a reputation for being a very good photographer. She actually took very sympathetic photographs of the leaders of business and society. Her photographic technique was flattering. She was comfortable taking pictures of the wives of the cabinet as well as the cabinet members. She made them look good. I think this is important to her career. It's true that Roosevelt was in the White House after 1900, but she actually made friends with him upon his return from Cuba and she photographed the Rough Riders. She got permission from him -- she got a letter from him of introduction to photograph Admiral George Dewey on his ship when he was just coming back from his victory in Manila. And her vision is consonant with the vision of the makers and doers in Washington in 1900. She was invited in to the White House several times to make photographs. She became a friend of Teddy Roosevelt's. She photographed the Roosevelt White House. She photographed anyone who was anyone in Washington, D.C.

Johnston is not a rebel. Johnston is a pioneer was a woman, but she's not a political rebel. She's not like Jane Adams. She's not trying to change society. She's trying to show more of how it works. She's trying to give flattering images of people who are running things. In her work possibly with the Hampton Institute, which was a school for freed slaves and later on for Native Americans, one of the first interracial boarding schools in the country -- possibly in that work she is trying to assist in the program of racial uplift of the progressive era, but in general Johnston is documenting. She is not reforming. And this is very attractive to the Washington elite, who, of course, want to be doing what they're doing. They don't want to be criticized. They want to be shown in flattering light. Johnston does this. She's very, very energetic, very attractive. She's, in these early years, she's young, she's vital, and it's fun to have her around and she'll take wonderful pictures.

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