Belle Johnson, who photographed Monroe City’s building and people for many decades, was known as an eccentric, unorthodox artist, whose creativity was uninhibited by conventional photographic techniques.
Early examples of her work demonstrate that she signed her photographs Miss Belle Johnson, followed later by Belle Johnson, and eventually a much abbreviated B.J. Her studio was located on the top floor of a bank building in Monroe City, Missouri.
Her 200-some photographs which are in the collection of the Massillon Museum were donated by friend and fellow photographer, William L. Bennett. The museum also has a significant number of his prints and negatives in the collection as well.
Her photographs are known worldwide, which is attributed largely to their reproduction in books and magazines. Her photograph of three unidentified women with long hair that nearly reaches the floor was reproduced in the Smithsonian magazine (1997) as well as in Naomi Rosenblum’s book, A History of Women Photographers.
She also was inducted into the Missouri Photojournalism’s Hall of Fame in 2008.
Copies of her work also are available for viewing at The Lake Gazette. A traveling exhibit of her work and that of Henry Clay Fleming is being seen across the United States as the “Faces of Rural America.”
For more information, go to http://www.facesofruralamerica.org