Through a Native Lens: American Indian Photography

November 25, 2020
Through a Native Lens: American Indian Photography

What is American Indian photography? At the turn of thetwentieth century, Edward Curtis began creating romantic images ofAmerican Indians, and his works—along with pictures by othernon-Native photographers—came to define the field. Yet beginning inthe second half of the nineteenth century, American Indiansthemselves started using cameras to record their daily activitiesand to memorialize tribal members. Through a Native Lensoffers a refreshing, new perspective by highlighting the activecontributions of North American Indians, both as patrons whocommissioned portraits and as photographers who createdcollections.In this richly illustrated volume, Nicole Dawn Strathmanexplores how indigenous peoples throughout the United States andCanada appropriated the art of photography and integrated it intotheir lifeways. The photographs she analyzes date to the first onehundred years of the medium, between 1840 and 1940. To account forNative activity both in front of and behind the camera, the authordivides her survey into two parts. Part I focuses on Nativeparticipants, including such public figures as Sarah Winnemucca andRed Cloud, who fashioned themselves in deliberate ways for theirportraits. Part II examines Native professional, semiprofessional,and amateur photographers.Drawing from tribal and state archives, libraries, museums, andindividual collections, Through a Native Lens featuresphotographs—including some never before published—that range fromformal portraits to casual snapshots. The images represent multipletribal communities across Native North America, including theInland Tlingit, Northern Paiute, and Kiowa. Moving beyond studiesof Native Americans as photographic subjects, this groundbreakingbook demonstrates how indigenous peoples took control of their ownimages and distinguished themselves as pioneers of photography.