Is This The Face Of Robert Johnson?

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- Artist Photo

Passionate debate is spreading through the blues community over a photograph, discovered in a desk drawer in Florida, that may include an image of blues trailblazer Robert Johnson.

Only two other images of Johnson, including this familiar one, have ever been widely accepted to be of the Mississippi bluesman, who died at the age of 27 in 1938, leaving many details of his life and death to be hotly discussed in later years. This latest photograph was found in Pensacola, FL in 2013 by Donald Roark, a retired professor, who discovered it in one of the drawers of a desk he had bought at an auction.

The image shows four people seated at a table with Johnson, it is suggested, on the left sipping a drink, next to his wife circa 1931, Calletta Craft; Estella Coleman, with whom he had a long-term relationship; and her son Robert Lockwood Jr, who went on to be a respected blues musician in his own right.

For years, Roark wondered about the resemblance between the figure in the left of the photo and the popular image of Johnson that he knew from one of the album collections he owned. He approached forensic artist Lois Gibson for her opinion and she, having positively identified a previous image said to be of Johnson in 2008, has analysed the latest photograph and given it her seal of verification.

The debate is certain to continue, perhaps indefinitely, but it’s a fascinating new twist in the legend of one of the most mysterious figures in blues history.


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  1. Harry Hickman

    December 21, 2015 at 8:32 am

    Judging by his hand I would say yes, but because his face is partially covered, I can’t say for sure. It would help if you could trace back the owners of the desk, but I know that is most likely nearly impossible. Either way it’s an awesome photo!

    • John pitt

      June 12, 2016 at 4:13 pm

      Most probably could be him.have photo in blues collection volume 6

  2. mike

    December 21, 2015 at 11:45 am

    I don’t think so.Yes he has long fingers,but so do piano players.The face is longer,ears smaller.Also puzzled by what he seems to be holding on his lap.Thats the long black line running from his hand and under his leg.For me its a no.

    • Tony

      December 21, 2015 at 1:43 pm

      think that’s a chair leg!

  3. Billie Dennis

    December 21, 2015 at 12:47 pm

    If that’s his Wife and hands match and specialist is trained. I think so.

  4. Billie Dennis

    December 21, 2015 at 12:49 pm

    If that’s his Wife,hands match and specialist knows her job . I think so . Love Robert Johnson.

  5. Dr. Bruce Conforth

    December 21, 2015 at 2:19 pm

    Please stop this nonsense!
    Lois Gibson is a menace to legitimate blues scholarship!
    This is the second time she “authenticated” a photo as being Robert Johnson.
    A team of 49 international blues scholars debunked the Johnson/Shines photo she “authenticated” earlier this year (…/robert-johnson-photo-does…)

    Your article – New photo of bluesman Robert Johnson unearthed; only third photo in existence – by Dylan Baddour would be laughable if it were not so infuriating.
    I am one of the blues scholars that refuted Lois Gibson’s last “authentication” of a photo allegedly of Robert Johnson and take exception with her statements concerning this photo.

    The photo in the article surfaced several years ago and was debunked as early as 2013. Perhaps Ms Gibson believes that we blues scholars don’t “know a superciliary arch from a philtrum”, but we know historical context and we know how to contact true experts.

    I challenge Ms Gibson to refute the findings of Dr. Nixon of the University of Southhampton in England – one of the world’s foremost forensic experts on identification of faces through ear definition, who, when shown the photo in question with the same photo of the real Robert Lockwood Gibson used for comparison, said, as to their being the same person – “no match.”

    As per the woman sitting next to the alleged “Johnson” being Calleta Craft, Johnson’s wife, I attach a photo of the actual Callie Craft (below) who looks nothing like the woman in the photo. In addition, this photo would have to be from 1931 because Craft died in 1932. That would make the alleged Johnson figure 20 years old and the alleged Lockwood figure 16.

    There are other historical errors, like the fact that Johnson did not know Estella Coleman until later than 1931.

    Gibson is obviously not one to pay much attention to contextual detail (since she failed to notice that the other photo she identified as Johnson was printed in reverse, which is why all the buttons on the male clothing are on the wrong side) because the furniture in this new photo could not have been from 1931 but more likely dates to the WWII era or later. The women’s glasses are from the wrong era, as are their strapped shoes. And, the Coke bottle on the table is definitely NOT an 8 ounce bottle but rather a 10 ounce (or perhaps even 12) which wasn’t introduced until 1950! Everything about the photo says 1940s or even 1950s, NOT 1931.

    Ms Gibson can “purport” any opinion she wishes, but historical evidence and the testimony of true forensic experts, along with a complete lack of provenance show her to be in error once again.

  6. Michael Naiman

    December 21, 2015 at 5:21 pm

    I could have sworn it was John Denver!

  7. Dan Ropek

    December 21, 2015 at 5:44 pm

    Look at the left ear. Not the same guy…

  8. woilem

    December 22, 2015 at 12:25 am

    i don t thing so it s not him

  9. woilem

    December 22, 2015 at 12:32 am

    but that weird it s same hat the face of the guy who drinks a glass. his nose is longer. face too. and robert johnson c is not never wear white.

  10. Patsy

    December 22, 2015 at 3:04 am

    Agree Dan. Always good to try and check ears.

  11. Frank

    December 22, 2015 at 6:54 am

    The hat is straight on his head. Not the way RJ wore his as evident in his other photo and confirmed by Honey boy Edwards

  12. John

    December 22, 2015 at 8:16 am

    I thought I found the outline of Johnson’s profile on my testicles. But, it turned out to just be Jesus Christ.

  13. T.rex

    December 22, 2015 at 9:55 pm

    Considering it doesn’t resemble him in the slightest, I’d have to guess, “no”….. But he is black, afterall…. so maybe.

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