The famous photographs of Art Deco photographer Alfred Cheney Johnston were nearly lost to history. In the 1920s ACJ was one of the most famous photographers in America. As the chief photographer for the Ziegfeld Follies Johnston had access to photographing some of the most beautiful and famous women in the world.
Since the late 1990’s a growing number of people have been discovering Cheney Johnston’s work on the internet where they’re now being sold. His famous photographs are becoming more and more collectible. If you too are thinking of collecting his work, here are some tips for identifying authentic ACJ prints.
1. Lighting was a big part of ACJ’s work. Some called him the Rembrandt of Photography. His early prints have a glow to them. This is caused by a combination of light, his glass plates not nearly being sensitive enough, long exposures and the camera lens being too soft. This resulted in what’s known as halation-in other words the glow of the print image. As Alfred Cheney Johnston mastered the medium over the course of his career, the lighting grew more and more refined offering up ever more detail in his later photographic prints.
2. Cheney’s photographs have a certain innocence to them. This was achieved by how he posed the model especially the hands. Look at enough ACJ prints and after awhile you can easily identify one of his prints by how the hands of the person sitting for him are posed. This attention to the position of the hands came from his classical training in fine art.
3. Seeing Alfred Cheney Johnston was the chief photographer for the Ziegfeld Follies this meant he shot a lot of the showgirls in their costumes. That meant using a lot of props. Again, over time Johnston grew more and more proficient at designing masterpieces of compositions by paying strict attention to how he posed the model and what props he included and where he placed them.