Famous black and white photography prints sell for a lot of money. Have you ever regretted not knowing about an artist’s work when it was still affordable enough for you to invest in it before it started going up and up like a hot stock? Well you can. The work of photographer Alfred Cheney Johnston, a contemporary of Edward Steichen and Alfred Stieglitz is gathering momentum in the investment collector’s market.
Alfred Cheney Johnston was the famed photographer of the Ziegfeld Follies. During his reign with the Follies, Cheney photographed the hot celebrities of the day such as – Lillian Gish, Ann Pennington – famous for her shake and quiver dance, Billie Burke who was the wife of Flo Ziegfled, well known for playing Glenda the good witch in the “Wizard of Oz” and many many more.
ACJ shot thousands of fine art, black and white photographs. His models were always classically posed because of his fine art training. Cheney Johnston began as an art student in New York City and was a protege of artist Charles Dana Gibson, creator of the famous “Gibson Girl” illustrations.
While Cheney was still in art school the medium of photography was in the early stages of gaining ground as an acceptable fine art medium. It was Charles Dana Gibson who directed Alfred Cheney Johnston’s attention to photography in the first place. He encouraged the young Cheney to explore it as a new way to express his talent. Thankfully for all black and white photography collectors, Cheney listened.
In his hay-day of the Roaring 20’s Alfred Cheney Johnston work was in extreme demand. Not only was he recording the images of all the major stars and many of the chorus girls of the Ziegfeld Follies, he was photographing the high society mavens of Manhattan who were often Ziegfeld Girl wanna be-s.
It wasn’t long before Hollywood came calling wishing to hire Cheney Johnston to shoot stills of the stars of both the silent movies and the talkies. In fact, there was a time when Johnston was as famous as many of the people he photographed.
The Great Depression brought ruin all across the country. With money tight, especially for such luxuries as going to Broadway musicals, Flo Ziegfeld was forced to close down the Ziegfeld Follies. Out of a dependable job, Alfred Cheney Johnston and his wife retreated to an old Connecticut farm where he lived out his life in absolute obscurity.
When Alfred Cheney Johnston died thousands of his photographs were found in his studio built in a renovated barn. An old turkey coop was found to be packed with all his glass negatives. Sadly most of the negatives were disposed of at the local dump. The black and white prints were inherited by a close friend. In due course the full collection was sold to an east coast photography dealer.
With the advent of Internet, especially Ebay, Cheney Johnston’s stunning black and white prints were offered for sale on the auction site and people began to re-discover his artistry. Through a plethora of his black and white photographs, Alfred Cheney Johnston’s star is once again on the rise.