THE PHOTOBOOTH BLOG
May 26, 2020

We last noted the iconic photobooth portrait of Robert Johnson—until that time one of only two widely accepted, legitimate portraits of the blues musician—in a blog entry back in 2005. Over the years, other photos have surfaced, including one allegedly depicting Johnson with fellow bluesman Johnny Shines written up in the New York Times in 2017, but this month, a second Robert Johnson photobooth portrait has emerged.

The upcoming memoir by Johnson’s step-sister, Annye Anderson, is previewed in this month’s issue of Vanity Fair, and the cover image is advertised as “third verified picture of him in existence,” taken in the mid-1930s in a “make-your-own-photo place” in Memphis, Tennessee.

Excerpted from the book, here is Mrs. Anderson’s account of the day the photo was taken:

There was a make-your-own-photo place on Beale Street, near Hernando Street. I’ve since learned that a man named John Henry Evans owned it. The photo place was right next door to Pee Wee’s, the bar where Mr. Handy wrote his blues. One day when I was 10 or 11 years old, I walked there with Sister Carrie and Brother Robert. I remember him carrying his guitar and strumming as we went. You just walk in, drop a nickel in the slot, pull the curtain, and do it. There was no photographer. I had my picture made. Brother Robert got in the booth, and evidently made a couple.

I kept Brother Robert’s photograph in my father’s trunk that sat in the hallway of the Comas house while we lived there with my mother after my father died. After my mother died, we could only take so many things. I took my photographs with me, wrapped in a handkerchief. I only carried a few belongings to Ma and Pops Thompson’s house. When I moved in with my sister Charlyne, I bought some furniture. I stored the photograph, along with others, in a cedar chest I bought. I’ve always had this photograph.

Thanks to Charles for the tip.

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