Faces of Rural America

Traveling Exhibit

Download the Faces of Rural America Traveling Exhibit brochure. (PDF, 5MB)

About the Exhibit

Faces of Rural America encompasses century-old images by Belle Johnson of Monroe City, Missouri (located near Hannibal, Missouri), and Henry Clay Fleming of Ravenswood, West Virginia (along the Ohio River), where they served for decades as their small towns’ lone professional photographic portrait artists.

Belle Johnson (1864–1945) began her lifelong career and passion for photography as a photographer’s assistant in 1890. She soon took over the studio, which she operated for more than a half century, artistically depicting the babies, graduates, brides, families, teams, hoboes, soldiers, and the general population of Monroe City and surrounding farms. Johnson actively participated in regional, national, and international photography
competitions, earning medals and recognition. She was frequently invited to exhibit her work in salons and was awarded honorary membership in the Photographic Association of America in 1907. Johnson’s most noted photograph, “Three Women with Long Hair,” has been seen around the world in exhibitions and documentaries, on postcards and posters, and as a book illustration.

Henry Clay Fleming (1845–1942) started his photographic career as a daguerreotype artist by 1870, but, like Johnson, he soon began recording images on glass plate negatives. He, however, continued to use that medium until the end of his career, despite more modern methods that were available. He is thought to have been Ravenswood’s sole photographer from the 1910s through the 1930s, recording the faces of the town’s residents as well as those who lived in the surrounding hills. Fleming concentrated strictly on the people who sat for his portraits. Consequently, it’s their faces, their relationship to each other, and their attire that appeal to the viewer. Props and careful composition were less important to Fleming’s style. In the six decades since the glass plates were packed away, they have acquired intriguing deterioration around the edges from changes in temperature and humidity, framing the faces accidentally in an artistic manner.

Traveling Exhibition Content

Photographs—choose among six exhibition configurations

  1. 50 Fleming images & 50 Johnson images
  2. 25 Fleming images & 25 Johnson images
  3. 50 Fleming images
  4. 50 Johnson images
  5. 25 Fleming images
  6. 25 Johnson images

Other Content:

  • Introductory panel—available as a Word document or as a ready-to-hang panel (additional fee)
  • Biographical panel(s) of photographer(s) available as a Word document or as a ready-to-hang panel (additional fee)
  • Portrait(s) of the photographer(s)
  • Introductory video for each photographer’s work
  • Comprehensive educational/programming guide
  • Catalogs devoted to individual photographers (additional fee)
  • Family activity guide (additional fee)
  • Registrar’s packet
  • Publicity packet including media release and images for publication
  • Installation instructions

Download the Faces of Rural America Traveling Exhibit brochure. (PDF, 5MB)

The Logistics

Share the Exhibition with Your Town!

Interested in bringing Faces of Rural America to your community? There are several exhibition packages to accommodate a range of budget levels that can include a combination of framed photographs, audiovisual materials, educational guides, and interpretive text.

By bringing the Faces of Rural America exhibition to your town, you have an opportunity to connect your community to an experience. Museums, libraries, historical societies, community centers, and universities, upon approval of facility reports by our curatorial staff, are among the different venues that can host this exhibition.

Exhibition Details


  • 50 photographs: 110–150 linear feet
  • 25 photographs: 70–125 linear feet

Rental Period
12 Weeks beginning January 2012 (as availability allows)

Rental Fee

  • Option 1
    $6,500 plus shipping (100 photographs)
  • Options 2, 3 & 4
    $4,000 plus shipping (50 photographs)
  • Options 5 & 6
    $2,000 plus shipping (25 photographs)


Andy Rock Fine Art Services

Alexandra Nicholis Coon
Executive Director, Massillon Museum
Email her

The original Faces of Rural America project was launched with funding from the Institute of Museum and Library Services.

The Publications

The catalogs—one for each photographer—are 8.75 inches by 11.5 inches, 80 pages, printed in full color to bring out the subtleties of the toned black and white images, on archival quality paper. Boxed sets are also available.

“Stories, though, are at the heart of everything the Massillon Museum does. History, art, culture—all of it is built
around the human experience and the stories we live to tell. It took two years, thousands of dollars and endless
amounts of time, but the Massillon Museum has uncovered some treasured stories that time had begun to erase.”
Erin Pustay, The Independent, Massillon, Ohio

“…Faces of Rural America, an ambitious and enlightening exhibition at the Massillon Museum.”
Dan Kane, The Repository, Canton, Ohio

“Viewing the portraits collectively is to be utterly immersed in another world, really. There is an astonishingly diverse
range of faces, walks of life, and moods present. Men, women, babies and children. Couples, families. Rich, poor.
Expressions that are playful, scowling, angelic, demure, contemplative, proud, tired, enigmatic. Wondrous, lyrical
Tom Wachunas, Artwatch.blogspot.com

“Compared to contemporary photographs, the people in these images project an endearing sense of sincerity and
innocence and a complete lack of the irony and almost jaded sense of self that today’s sitters possess.”
Dottie Shinn, The Beacon Journal, Akron, Ohio

The Technology


View the archived project website. (special thanks to Archive.org)


  • 2,093 images—all Johnson and Fleming images
  • studied during the Faces of Rural America project
  • 198 Belle Johnson images
  • 1895 Henry Clay Fleming images

Overview of each town represented:
Monroe City, Missouri & Ravenswood, West Virginia

A biography of each photographer:
Belle Johnson & Henry Clay Fleming

Ideas for using the exhibition or the website for meaningful family dialogue and learning opportunities—art, history, geography, social studies, science, and more!

Project Toolkit—
within the website

Replicate the Project
Learn how to facilitate a similar project for your family or your community with step-by-step instructions, examples, and forms.

Download the Faces of Rural America Traveling Exhibit brochure. (PDF, 5MB)

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