Thomas Johnson was born in Birmingham. In 1861 photographer Thomas Johnson and his sister Phoebe, a musician, were lodging with the family of a Commercial Traveller in Leicester. The opening of a new studio was advertised in 1863 in the Leicester Chronicle. An 1867 advertisement for his Leicester studio stated that he had eighteen years experience as a photographer. .
Johnson still advertised in Leicester in 1878. Before 1880 he relocated to Southampton.
The 1881 census recorded Johnson as a photographer at 95 High Street, Southampton, married with seven children: the youngest born in Freemantle in 1880. His eldest son was a picture frame maker.
Carte de visite dated June 1883, giving the name of the studio as The Bell-Gate Studio, rather than the Bargate Studio. The Empress Eugenie was the widow of Napoleon III, exiled to Britain in 1870. Napoleon died in 1873. In the 1880s Empress Eugenie was a regular visitor to Osborne House on the Isle of Wight, and Bournemouth.
Johnson advertised in the 1884 Southampton directory, at The Bargate Studios, 8 High Street. In 1886 a son was born in St Helens, Jersey, and in 1887 another son was born in Leicester.
The 1891 census listed Thomas Johnson, photographer, in Penge, South East London. In 1901 he lived and worked in South Wimbledon, but no trace of Thomas Johnson has been found after that time.