Blackman, Margaret B. "Posing the American Indian," Natural History 89 (October, 1980), pp.

 

Blackman, Margaret B. "Posing the American Indian," Natural History 89 (October, 1980), pp.
68-75.

The author begins with the proposition that a photograph provides information about two things:
"...one about the artist or author and his conception of the subject material and a second about the
culture captured in the picture." (p. 69) The first she calls "stereotype" and the second "reality."
She is more interested in her "reality" while I am more interested in "stereotypes." However, she
does tell some interesting stories: "A number of (John K.) Hillers' photographs of Ute and Paiute
Indians were used by (John Wesley) Powell to illustrate some of his publications on Great Basin
Indians. Many, however, were taken with a stereo camera and mounted on cards for viewing
through parlor stereoscopes, evidence that entertainment governed the selection of the subject
matter. The bare breasted ‘Wu-nau-ai gathering seeds' certainly was not viewed by Victorian
gentlemen for its documentation of Great Basin seed gathering." (p.70)

"There is a strong motivation to photograph what would sell to the public." (p. 70)

"Frontier studio photographers routinely kept a stock of indian (sic) costumes with which they
attire local native subjects. The result was that several natives were often photographed in the
same outfit or one native might be photographed in two or more different outfits." (p. 70)

"Even Franz Boas, the father of American anthropology and meticulous chronicler of Northwest
Coast Indian cultures, saw photography of Native Americans in commercial, as much as
ethnographic terms. In the winter of 1895-96 Boas hired C. O. Hastings, a photographer from
Victoria, to accompany him to Fort Rupert and assist in recording Kakiutl Indian technology and
portions of the elaborate winter ceremonies then in progress. Together, Boas and Hastings
returned with 140 photographs which the anthropologist hoped to be able to sell to Scribners' or
some other magazine. The Scribners photo essay never came to fruition, but many of the
photographs illustrated Boas's The Social Organization and Secret Societies of the Kakiutl
Indians, published in 1897 as a US National Museum Report..." (p.70)

Unfortunately, Natural History does not use footnotes and the author does not make explicit
references to the places where these fraudulent photos might be found. Yet here is a very clear
suggestion that photos can be fudged.