A Few Words on the October 2011 Photographs:

The Dead Mule School of Southern Literature highlights images found within the Library of Congress.

This month our imagination is captured by the Carnegie Survey of Southern Architecture. Photographing in the 1930s, Frances Benjamin Johnston’s glass slides capture compelling portraits of over 1,700 buildings. Johnston primarily traveled through urban and rural regions of VA, MD, NC, SC, GA, AL, and LA. The collection does include FL, MS, WV photographs.

The photographs of “high style structures” of southern mansions and plantations give us a fascinating glimpse into the detail of both architectural design and functional form. Outbuildings in Johnston’s photographs particularly interest me because of their scarcity here in rural NC in 2011. The demise of the outbuilding is a topic for another day.

When studying southern architecture in graduate school, it took a significant amount of money to print the photographs from my Canon AE-1.  The boxes of slide carousels take up way too much space in the closet but I can’t make myself throw them out. Recently, we purchased an Epson Perfection V500 Photo scanner with a slide mount. Perhaps now I can find time to digitize my own collection. Not that is warrants Library of Congress attention, duh. The digitization of Johnston’s glass slides is a huge commitment by the LoC. Thank you, America.

The survey began with a privately funded project to document the Chatham estate and nearby Fredericksburg and Old Falmouth, Virginia, in 1927-29. Johnston then dedicated herself to pursuing a larger project to help preserve historic buildings and inspire interest in American architectural history. The Carnegie Corporation became her primary financial supporter and provided six grants during the 1930s on condition that the negatives be deposited with the Library of Congress. The Library formally acquired the CSAS negatives from her estate in 1953, along with her extensive papers and approximately 20,000 other photographs.

I humbly bow to the exquisite talent of Frances Benjamin Johnston. Her genius compels one to study the depth of the image, the play of shadow on light, the attention to detail …

Dead Mule readers should check out the over 7000 images in the Survey.

Links to the highlights of Carnegie Survey of Southern Architecture



Next time you’re looking for something more entertaining and informative than what your internet friends ate for lunch or that YouTube video of a kitten chasing a laser light, lose yourself in the Library of Congress website. It belongs to you, but you know that…

Talk to ya’ll later,

Valerie MacEwan