Frances Benjamin Johnson was born in Grafton, West Virginia in 1864. She studied art at Notre-Dame Convent, Maryland (1881-83) and Academie Julian, Paris (1983-85). On her return to the United States she attended the Art Students League in Washington, where she began experimenting with photography.
Johnson opened her own photographic studio in Washington in 1890. She received commissions from several publications and photographed all the leading politicians based in Washington including Benjamin Harrison, Grover Cleveland, William McKinley, Teddy Roosevelt, and William Taft.
Johnson was a strong advocate of women photographers. He views on the subject, What Women Can Do With a Camera, was published in the Ladies' Home Journal, in September, 1897. She also organised the exhibition of twenty-eight American women photographers at museums in Paris, St. Petersburg and Moscow (1900-1901).
In the early 1900s Johnson became particularly interested in architectural photography. Later she concentrated on photographing gardens and estates. Frances Johnson died in New Orleans in 1952.