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  • historicalzg - 1Reply
    ohikkoshi wrote on May 22, '11
    What a great revelation! Thank you, David!

    valadga wrote on May 7, '11
    wonderfull thankyou so much. ... Val.

    ziegfeldgrrl wrote on May 7, '11
    Oh my goodness!!! This is brilliant, David!

    I was wondering why the contract was dated so late into the 20s! Fascinating and such a huge new piece of information.

    Thanks so much!

Alfred Cheney Johnston's Other Studio: Don Diego
by David for group historicalziegfeld May 7, 2011

One of the revelations of the recent sale of Alfred Cheney Johnston papers appears in his 1927 letter of contract with Florenz Ziegfeld in which ACJ reveals that he had established a second studio with a separate brand name, Don Diego. (You may recall my earlier posting on Don Diego as a disciple of ACJ whose style was so indistinguishable from that of ACJ that it was difficult to speak of a personal approach to photography--small wonder!) The 1927 Ziegfeld contract suggests why Johnston established a subsidiary brand. It is an agreement that "Alfred Cheney Johnston" work exclusively with Ziegfeld and with no other producer. Since "Alfred Cheney Johnston" had incorporated himself, if he were to do additional work, it had to be under another name. Don Diego was the moniker he chose. The sort of work printed under the Don Diego brand from 1927 through 1929 is suggested in the illustrations below--fashion shoots using name actresses for national magazines--costume shots of performers in non-Ziegfeld shows. There is one interesting inference one can make from provisions in the 1927 contractual letter: that Alfred Cheney Johnston personally developed and printed prints appearing under his name; Don Diego employed other developers and printers. Ziegfeld's exclusive agreement with Johnston lasted a year, for the producer contracted with DeBarron Studios in 1928. Yet Johnston kept the Don Diego brand viable until the Stock Market Crash in 1929. The Don Diego fashion shots presented below are noteworthy for several things--first they do not, with one exception, employ Johnston's signature painted negative background; second, they often employ stage props, rather than elements from ACJ's studio; third, three-quarters length portraits appear intermingled with full figure images in a much higher percentage than ACJ's theatrical work; four, the penchant for lighter backgrounds shows off detailing of the clothing. In numbers of Johnston's pronouncements about photographic artistry and female beauty, he commented how he did not favor depicting women in modern dress. Yet fashion photography was where a great deal of money was to be made. So ACJ segregated this work from that appearing under his own name. Another matter of interest concerns the disappearance of Johnston from the pages of Theatre magazine in the 1920s. It would now appear that he did not disappear at all, but simply employed another name, while "Alfred Cheney Johnston" abided by whatever exclusive agreement he had signed with a Broadway Producer. Another matter to note is that Ziegfeld resorted to such exclusive arrangements only intermittently during his career--in 1919 with Frank E. Geisler, in 1922 with Edward Thayer Monroe, in 1927 with Johnston, and 1928-29 with DeBarron. His more usual method was to secure numbers of photographers treating various aspects of publicity for his shows. David S. Shields

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