"Appreciating a Pretty Shoulder" : The Risque? Photographs of Charles Ellis Johnson
Utah Historical Quarterly
This is a study of a collection of suggestive photographs taken by Charles Ellis Johnson. His subjects were usually burlesque actresses or vaudeville performers. Although not really pornographic, these photographs would have been quite shocking during the period in which they were taken, 1890-1910. Some of his risque? photographs were probably even illegal, based on Utah's indecency statutes. The most interesting aspect of this collection is that Johnson was a successful Salt Lake City businessman from a good LDS family; also of note is that he became the "unofficial Church Photographer" in the 1890's. During that job, his subjects actually included the Mormon Tabernacle Choir and the Salt Lake City Temple. Johnson married Ruth Young, Brigham Young's daughter, but they were separated by 1895. After their separation, he grew distant from the LDS Church. He did not break with the Church completely because he understood it was important to maintain a positive image and not attract attention; this facade would be best for both his business and his family.