What is Black and Red and Sepia?

Native Art Bookshelf

Native Photography and Art History Bookshelf in the shop at the Museum of Contemporary Native Arts, Santa Fe.

Notice the fairly uniform color scheme of these books. It is predominantly black, red, and sepia-toned. I took this photograph at the Museum Store at MoCNA, which has a great collection of books about Native American and First Nations art and culture. The photograph has been sitting in my phone for a couple months, but I still find the aesthetics of it symbolically important. These particular shelves are the photography and art history shelves. The bright green book in the upper right is an exception to the color limits. It is Our Land, Our Images, Our Selves, edited by by Hulleah Tsinhnahjinnie and Veronica Passalaqua. The cover photograph is sepia-toned, though, so it does not break the preferred symbolic color scheme in that sense. The limited design aesthetics for books of this type is also apparent at book fairs at academic conferences, too. I noticed it at NAISA, but particularly at CAA, where art books can get fairly arty-looking.

Does this very limited palette of design colors for books about Native peoples reinforce stereotypes about Native peoples? Do these aesthetics imply Native peoples are only authentically located in a distant past? Is this design scheme necessary to sell the books?

Could I please have a hot-pink book about Native American art? A serious book.

Dudes Go to Market

Fig. 2 Terrance Houle, Saddle Up, 2009. Pinhole photograph, digitally enlarged.

Terrance Houle (Bood), Adrian Stimson (Siksika), and Jamison Chas Banks (Seneca-Cayuga/Cherokee), are in Santa Fe this weekend to perform a collaborative performance artwork. The performance is called Buffalo Dudes Go to Market and will take place Saturday, August 18th, 2012 at the Museum of Contemporary Native Arts (MoCNA) at 4:45 pm.

I’ve written about Houle’s work previously on Not Artomatic, so I am reposting those entries. I’m anticipating a very interesting performance work from Buffalo Dudes. The essay below is about a series of photos taken as part of a performance by Houle at Calgary Stampede. I’m interested to see how Houle, Stimson, and Banks play with the particular dynamics of Santa Fe’s Indian Art Market.

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This  entry is about Terrance Houle’s series of photographs in the exhibition “Friend or Foe” at Or Gallery in Vancouver, BC, 2010. The show, curated by Darrin J. Martens, features work by Rebecca Belmore and Terrance Houle. The front of the gallery displays large pinhole photographs by Houle that he took at the Calgary Stampede in 2009. (See Figure 3). The Calgary Stampede is a ten-day rodeo festival that revels in all things cowboy. And how can you have cowboys without Indians? A makeshift Indian display set out on a sidewalk in front of The Metropolitan Centre features split-log fencing and a scaled down tipi. Houle, who is of Blood tribe ancestry, stands in a loincloth and commercial moccasins in front of the tipi. Each black and white photograph in this series was actually taken at the same moment, using simultaneous exposures from a number of pinhole cameras placed on-site.

Fig. 2 Terrance Houle, Urban Indian, 2004

Several Native/First nations artists work with photographic images that involve the disruptive sight of a semi-traditionally dressed Indian in clearly modern circumstances. Other artists who used some version of this approach are Jason Lujan, Merritt Johnson, Greg Hill, Zig Jackson, James Luna, etc. I think what makes this particular series interesting is the use of the pinhole camera in different locations, all depicting the same moment. If you’re not familiar with how a pinhole camera works, it’s a low-tech process that uses a light-proof box with an aperture and a manual cover. Black and white photographic paper or film is placed on the back wall of the box. No lens is necessary. Pinhole cameras need longer exposure times depending on ambient light, ranging from five seconds to several hours. Obviously, pinhole cameras are not useful for action shots. The first time an image from a pinhole camera was affixed onto paper was in 1850. It is one of the earliest photographic devices, and its precursor, the camera obscura is traceable back to ancient Rome. Houle’s photographs in this exhibition have the classic hallmarks of pinhole photography: crisp, in-focus stationary objects and a slight blur to people (or anything that moves), as well as a noticeable curvature at the periphery.

Fig. 2 Terrance Houle, Saddle Up, 2009. Pinhole photograph, digitally enlarged.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The most intriguing aspect of this series, and what differentiates it from Houle’s previous photographic work (see Figure 2), is the use of multiple pinhole cameras to capture the same (long) moment. The deliciousness of the idea is one part failure of the Western Cartesian system, one part postmodernism, and one part security camera. To unpack that statement, the Cartesian system assumes that there is a single viewpoint from which a neutral observer can determine the truth with absolute certainty. The spatial distortions that result from this least-mediated photographic technique combined with the use of multiple points of view fly in the face of supposed photographic truth and the “truth” authority of a singular viewpoint. Houle’s method here is symbolic of an overall shift in Western consciousness… away from certainty and absolute truth and toward the recognition of the viewpoints of other cultures – the upside of postmodern thought. (The downside of postmodern thought is the tendency for completely incoherent narrative). As for my “one part security camera,” I perhaps have less ground to stand on with that association, but it’s definitely a thought that occurred to me as I viewed the work in the gallery. The blurriness and distortion of the images resemble stills taken from security camera footage. Usually, we only see those images when a crime has been committed and excerpts from the footage, often from more than one vantage point, are shown to the public in hopes of eliciting information about a crime. There really isn’t a crime, per se, in Houle’s photographs at the Calgary Stampede, unless he has captured a crime against good taste, or a crime against authenticity, the indignity of cultural tourism, or a crime against history. But that’s tourism for you: an uncomfortable mingling of opportunism, appropriation, fantasy, enlightenment, and kitsch.

Native Photography: Archive, Canon, Audience, Collection

20110627-124653.jpg I begin this post with a long quote by Veronica Passalacqua from her chapter “Finding Sovereignty through Relocation, published in the 2009 book ‘Visual Currencies: Reflections on Native Photography’ edited by Henrietta Lidchi and Hulleah Tsinhnahjinnie. (Sorry, I haven’t figured out how to make the iPad version of wordpress do italics or footnotes yet). “Contemporary Native photography holds the unique distinction of being a genre created, promoted, and mediated by Indigenous artists and authors. It is through exhibitions, artist statements, and publications that photo-based artworks across North America are brought together to constitute the canon’s history and establish a sovereign ‘intellectual space’, for which I will use the term ‘territory’. Whilst independent, this territory is not isolated from institutional and academic discourses. It interacts with these through the medium of exhibitions , most frequently located within anthropological and fine art museums. More recently, web-based archives have emerged as important viewing environments due to their global accessibility by a diverse range of audiences. Indeed, it is through exhibitions and publications (rather than collecting) that that Native photography is most widely known and circulated (Lidchi, ed., 20).”

My initial experience using the Art Stor image database produced some disappointing results. When I searched for Native photography, or even just the terms Native or American Indian, what came up was many hundreds of photographs OF Natives, not BY Natives. I was an early user, back in 2005, and complained about it. Art Stor made some changes and now there are many images of historical objects made by indigenous peoples that turn up with those searches, but the database of photographic works is still primarily anthropological and studio portraits by non-Natives from before 1930. They have a few photos by Hulleah Tsinhnahjinnie and Shelley Niro, but not much else. I’d love to see that particular mainstream teaching resource expanded to include more Indigenous photographers… And I’d like them to be easily searchable, too. I found myself thinking about how crucial exhibitions and their catalogues have been for Native photography. When I teach about the subject, I’m using exhibition catalogues instead of textbooks. I can’t count on having an exhibition on display within a 100 mile radius for a timely field trip. Usually, the exhibitions are quite far away and only last a couple months at best. The exhibition catalogue becomes the most stable way to bring the artwork and issues to my students. When Tsinhnahjinnie brings up the aspect of collecting, she explains in more depth farther along in the essay that it is more common for a collecting audience to come across indigenous art forms that are considered “traditional,” like basketry, pottery, weaving, carving, etc., than to come across photographic work by indigenous artists. It is possible that there could start to be a shift in that pattern this summer, or at least, that’s the hope. In conjunction with SWAIA’s Indian Art Market in Santa Fe, New Mexico this coming August, there will be a juried photo exhibition for the first time. The juried exhibition is being hosted by the New Mexico Museum of Art. Hulleah Tsinhnahjinnie, Larry McNeil, and Katherine Ware will be selecting works. THE DEADLINE IS JULY 5th. Here is the call for entries: _________________________________________ Call for Entries Hosted by the New Mexico Museum of Art in partnership with the Southwestern Association for Indian Arts (SWAIA), the competition and exhibition are designed to encourage Native American artists working with photography to share their recent work with a broad audience of viewers. Artworks will be judged on the basis of vision, technical execution, and cohesiveness as a body of images. All subject matter is welcome. The competition winners will be invited to show their work in an exhibition at the New Mexico Museum of Art, opening August 12, 2011, during SWAIA’s 90th annual Santa Fe Indian Market, as well as in an online version of the show. Jurors: Hulleah J. Tsinhnahjinnie (Diné/Seminole/Muscogee) is an artist serving as Director of the C.N. Gorman Museum at University of California Davis and Associate Professor in the Department of Native American Studies at University of California Davis. Her photographic works have been extensively published and exhibited nationally and internationally. Katherine Ware is curator of photography at the New Mexico Museum of Art. She is a frequent juror and reviewer of contemporary photography and has published numerous books and essays on both historic and contemporary photography. Larry McNeil (Tlingit and Nisgáa) is a scholar and artist serving as professor in the Art Department at Boise State University. He taught previously at the Institute of American Indian Arts in Santa Fe. He is a contributing author to numerous publications and has won many fellowships and awards for his photographs. Artist Eligibility: The competition is open to all Native artists who are enrolled members of federally recognized US and Canadian tribes, nations, first nations and pueblos who work with digital or traditional still photography or two-dimensional mixed-media work that is photo-based. How to Enter: All submissions must be of work made within the past three years. Submissions can be made electronically or through the mail. Please send electronic submissions to photoexhibit@swaia.org. For questions about electronic submission, please contact Lisa Morris (lmorris@swaia.org). Mail disks to SWAIA Photo Exhibition, P.O. Box 969, Santa Fe, New Mexico 87504. The submitted images must be jpegs, no larger than 1960 pixels, with a maximum file size of 1.8 MBs. You may submit up to 12 images. Each submission should include a statement about the work of no more than 200 words. Deadline: All submissions must be received by July 5, 2011. Notification: Winners will be notified by July 13, 2011. All other entrants will be notified thereafter. Winners wishing to participate in the exhibition must send ready-to-hang work to arrive at the museum no later than July 29. Winners will be provided funds for framing and shipping. The art must be sent to the museum framed or ready for installation. Final dimensions are not to exceed 5’ x 5’. Neutral mat colors and simple frames are preferred, unless the style of presentation is integral to the work of art. Glazing must be acrylic – no glass. If the presentation of the art does not meet the museum’s standards, the museum reserves the right to request modification. Artists will receive museum loan agreements for accepted works of art, which must be completed and returned by mail. For general questions about the competition, please contact Kate Ware (kate.ware@state.nm.us) Terms and Conditions: The New Mexico Museum of Art, in consultation with the jurors, reserves the right to select or decline any artwork submitted. By submitting work for consideration, the artist agrees to allow accepted art to be reproduced for publicity and/or educational purposes. Funding is generously provided by Andrew Smith Gallery and Daniel Greenberg and Susan Steinhauser. _________________________________________ http://blog.larrymcneil.com/2011/06/21/new-native-photography-get-your-stuff-together/

And what do we see here?

Look for this view at the exhibition “It’s Complicated – Art about Home” at Evergreen Gallery in Olympia, Washington tonight.

There have been a number of requests for installation views of the exhibition opening at The Evergreen State College’s Gallery tonight (5-8pm, TESC campus in Olympia, Washington). The photo above is a tease… you’ll have to do some serious “looking” inside the gallery to find this view.

As Featured in LIFE, NEW MEXICO, and LOOK Magazines!

 

I had my first opportunity to ride the Rail Runner train between Santa Fe and Albuquerque on Monday. The best thing about the new rail route is that it does not follow the freeway the whole way. One of the best stops is the Kewa Pueblo Station (previously known as Santo Domingo Pueblo). Some bracing has been done to keep the old burned out “Real Indians” storefront from further collapse. It’s a landmark not just because it is a surviving piece of tourism history, Indian kitsch, or just plain old, but because it was the site of one of Larry McNeil’s early works: Real Indians, from 1977.

From the Kewa Train Station - the site of Larry McNeil's 1977 photograph "Real Indians" as seen in 2010. Photo by the Author.

My first encounter with McNeil’s Real Indians came from the exhibition catalogue for Indian Humor, a travelling exhibition from 1995 organized byAmerican Indian Contemporary Arts (which was based in San Francisco but no longer exists). The exhibition was curated by Sara Bates (Cherokee) and Kathleen Ash-Milby (Navajo).

I think Larry McNeil’s photograph has had longstanding appeal for three reasons: irony/humor, nostalgia, and as a critique of authenticity and commercial authority. The language of tourism centered around Indians in the Southwest has largely disappeared except in old run-down roadside sites such as this one. The assertion that there are “Real Indians” implies that there must also be un-real Indians and locates the authority for knowing the difference squarely in advertising and popular magazines like LIFE Magazine and LOOK Magazine, rather than with any kind of tribal authority.
The text on the sign implies a bustling local economy, cultural wealth, and prosperity. But the local economy has clearly declined, and the only “Real Indian” in sight is the artist who is just passing through. Larry McNeil had this to say about it,
“This is a self-portrait made in December of 1977 when I was still going to Brooks Institute of Photography . . . I came across this scene near Santo Domingo Pueblo, zoomed past it and did a double take of the blurred building that I saw in the corner of my eye. I thought to myself, ‘Did I see what I thought I saw?’ and did a U-turn. The scene was so bad that it was good. After seeing it clearly, my only thought was, ‘Hey, I’m a real Indian . . .'”(from the Indian Humor Catalogue, but also available on the old website for the exhibition: http://www.nmai.si.edu/exhibitions/indian_humor/exhibit/26.htm)
McNeil specifically identifies this photograph as a self-portrait, which shifts the emphasis from the place and onto the person. He stands with arms crossed, leaning against a beat-up car. The closed posture implies skepticism. The lean implies leisure – the opposite of the bustling terms “visit – watch – trade” from the signage.I heard that a few other Native artists out there have used this old trading post site and McNeil’s photo as a jumping off point for their own work. I’d love to include images of them in a photo essay here on Not Artomatic. If you know of or have an image to share, post a comment or e-mail me at evanslaramarie at gmail.com.

Larry McNeil, Real Indians, Copyright Larry McNeil, 2010, All Rights Reserved. This is how the image was published in the "Indian Humor" catalogue.

UPDATE See Larry McNeil’s response below in the COMMENTS section. 

Larry McNeil, Real Indians, Copyright Larry McNeil, 2010, All Rights Reserved This is the original B&W Photo as it was intended.

 

Friend or Foe – Part I

This entry is about Terrance Houle’s series of photographs in the exhibition “Friend or Foe” at Or Gallery. The show, curated by Darrin J. Martens, features work by Rebecca Belmore and Terrance Houle. The front of the gallery displays large pinhole photographs by Houle that he took at the Calgary Stampede in 2009. (See Figure 3). The Calgary Stampede is a ten-day rodeo festival that revels in all things cowboy. And how can you have cowboys without Indians? A makeshift Indian display set out on a sidewalk in front of The Metropolitan Centre features split-log fencing and a scaled down tipi. Houle, who is of Blood tribe ancestry, stands in a loincloth and commercial moccasins in front of the tipi. Each black and white photograph in this series was actually taken at the same moment, using simultaneous exposures from a number of pinhole cameras placed on-site.

Fig. 2 Terrance Houle, Urban Indian, 2004

A number of Native/First nations artists work with photographic images that involve the disruptive sight of a semi-traditionally dressed Indian in clearly modern circumstances. Other artists who used some version of this approach are Jason Lujan, Merritt Johnson, Greg Hill, Zig Jackson, James Luna, etc. I think what makes this particular series interesting is the use of the pinhole camera in different locations, all depicting the same moment. If you’re not familiar with how a pinhole camera works, it’s a low-tech process that uses a light-proof box with an aperture and a manual cover. Black and white photographic paper or film is placed on the back wall of the box. No lens is necessary. Pinhole cameras need longer exposure times depending on ambient light, ranging from five seconds to several hours. Obviously, pinhole cameras are not useful for action shots. The first time an image from a pinhole camera was affixed onto paper was in 1850. It is one of the earliest photographic devices, and its precursor, the camera obscura is traceable back to ancient Rome. Houle’s photographs in this exhibition have the classic hallmarks of pinhole photography: crisp, in-focus stationary objects and a slight blur to people (or anything that moves), as well as a noticeable curvature at the periphery.

Fig. 2 Terrance Houle, Saddle Up, 2009. Pinhole photograph, digitally enlarged.

The most intriguing aspect of this series, and what differentiates it from Houle’s previous photographic work (see Figure 2), is the use of multiple pinhole cameras to capture the same (long) moment. The deliciousness of the idea is one part failure of the Western Cartesian system, one part postmodernism, and one part security camera. To unpack that statement, the Cartesian system assumes that there is a single viewpoint from which a neutral observer can determine the truth with absolute certainty. The spatial distortions that result from this least-mediated photographic technique combined with the use of multiple points of view fly in the face of supposed photographic truth and the “truth” authority of a singular viewpoint. Houle’s method here is symbolic of an overall shift in Western consciousness… away from certainty and absolute truth and toward the recognition of the viewpoints of other cultures – the upside of postmodern thought. (The downside of postmodern thought is the tendency for completely incoherent narrative). As for my “one part security camera,” I perhaps have less ground to stand on with that association, but it’s definitely a thought that occurred to me as I viewed the work in the gallery. The blurriness and distortion of the images resemble stills taken from security camera footage. Usually, we only see those images when a crime has been committed and excerpts from the footage, often from more than one vantage point, are shown to the public in hopes of eliciting information about a crime. There really isn’t a crime, per se, in Houle’s photographs at the Calgary Stampede, unless he has captured a crime against good taste, or a crime against authenticity, the indignity of cultural tourism, or a crime against history. But that’s tourism for you: an uncomfortable mingling of opportunism, appropriation, fantasy, enlightenment, and kitsch.

Bringing our History into Focus: Re-Developing the work of B.A. Haldane, 19th Century Tsimshian Photographer by Mique’l Askren

 

Comment from Lara Evans: This new post is an article by Mique’l  Askren, a graduate student working toward her Ph.D. in art history at University of British Columbia. Constructing  a history of Native photography that involves Native people behind the camera instead of just in front of it is an important task.  Askren has started us on this path with the following examination of the work of  Benjamin Alfred Haldane (1874-1941), a Tsimshian photographer in Metlakatla in the late 1800s-early 1900s. She very generously submitted the article and images to the blog Not Artomatic.

Mique’l (pronounced my-key-el) Askren is Tsminshian and Tlingit from Metlakatla, Alaska. In addition to her scholarly work, she is a member of Git Hayetsk Dancers, an internationally-renown Northwest Coast mask dancing group based out of Vancouver, BC.

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 Bringing our History into Focus: Re-Developing the work of B.A. Haldane, 19th Century Tsimshian Photographer
 
 by Mique’l Askren
 
 
 

Figure 1. Glass plass negative by B.A. Haldane. One of 163 negatives currently housed by the Tsongass Historical Museum, Ketchikan, Alaska.

 

 

My research began here (Figure 1), among the images produced from the one hundred and sixty-three glass plate negatives that were salvaged from the fire of our local waste facility. The negatives are studio portraits of First Nations men, women, children, and families taken during the early 20th century. These burned and broken negatives act as a constant reminder of our near loss of this rich source of history. The photographer is Benjamin Alfred Haldane (1874-1941), a Tsimshian man known to our community of Metlakatla, Alaska by his nick-name B.A. or Ya-ya (Sm’algyak1 for grandfather) by the generations of his descendants (Figure 2). Since most of his photographs were removed from our community and incorporated into the host of anonymously produced images in museum archives, he is now remembered by his own people more for his remarkable musical abilities than as a photographer. However, the discovery of these negatives has turned our focus back to his photography and to the lens through which he framed our history. What has developed is the realization that just as the heat and flames has distorted these images of our ancestors, the literature on our community’s history, written without our own images and perspectives, continues to distort Metlakatla’s representation in the history of the Northwest Coast. With “Seeing RED – a call to acknowledge our presence” as the theme of this issue, I see my contribution as illustrating how our presence, as First Nations people, can be strengthened through challenging colonial versions of our history and reclaiming ownership of our representation.

      Metlakatla, Alaska was founded in 1887 by eight hundred and twenty-three Tsimshian people who, under the guidance of lay missionary William Duncan, migrated from Metlakatla, British Columbia in quest of government-sanctioned land rights and the liberty to follow nondenominational Christianity. In the wider missionary project that followed European colonization in many parts of the world, our community was considered a Christian utopia. Photographs and stories of Metlakatla were circulated in books and newspapers throughout Canada, the United States, and Britain as evidence of one of the most successful missions – the formation of an economically self-sufficient, Christian, First Nations community. The dissemination of these materials and later anthropological publications positioned Metlakatla as the epitome of the colonial agenda of missionization and assimilation of Indigenous peoples. Today, this depiction continues to dominate our community’s representation in the literature on First Nations history on the Northwest Coast.

TOP Figure 2: B.A. self-portrait inside his studio, circa 1900. #88.1.71.2, Tongass Historical Museum. BOTTOM Figure 3: Family Portrait taken in B.A.'s studio in Metlakatla, AK. Circa 1900 ACR#297620, Sir Henry Wellcome Collection, National Archives - Pacific Alaska Region

      I am a direct descendant of the Tsimshians who moved to Metlakatla, Alaska with Duncan in 1887. My great-great grandparents were married by him. My great-grandmother, who passed away when I was fourteen years old, attended his school. This history is recent to us. Based on my life experiences and our oral history, it is my opinion that this colonial narrative, which depicts our conversion to Christianity as a complete rejection of our traditional lifeways and so-called assimilation into Euro-American culture, has overshadowed the stories of resistance and cultural continuity that persist in our community. The primary objective of this essay and my on-going research is to challenge and disrupt this colonial narrative by bringing to light a counter-narrative of Metlakatla’s history that was captured through the photographic lens of one of our own people, Benjamin Alfred (B.A) Haldane.

      Although B.A. is considered one of the first professional Native photographers on the Northwest Coast, few publications have discussed his images and none explore his life and career extensively.2 Adhering to the ethics and protocols of researching in First Nations communities, I received permission from B.A.’s family and our Band Council to do this research for my Master’s thesis.3 As it is also a responsibility of researchers to give back to the First Nations communities in which they work, I also hold forums in Metlakatla to present my work at its various stages for their feedback.

      The images that I focus on in this essay frame B.A.’s imagery and practice as performing strategic acts of what internationally renowned photographer Hulleah Tsinhnahjinnie (Diné, Seminole, and Muskogee) defines as “photographic sovereignty.”4 In her essay, “When is a Photograph Worth a Thousand Words?” Tsinhnahjinnie locates agency in what she identifies as photographic sovereignty of the Indigenous subjects in ethnographic images taken by non-Indigenous photographers. Empowering the vantage point of the subject, she challenges the so-called “expert narrative” of the image by contextualizing Indigenous peoples in the various epistemologies, ceremonies, spiritualities, oral histories, and biographies in which they functioned at that time and to which they continue to be connected today. Viewing images through this lens, Tsinhnahjinnie insists on returning power to the Indigenous people in these photographs by telling their stories of resistance, resilience, and survival.5 Her work makes space for further examination of photographic sovereignty as it applies to the interpretation of images taken by B.A. and other early First Nations photographers. Building on Tsinhnahjinnie’s position, I empower the vantage points of both the First Nations photographer and his subjects. From this location, I will contextualize B.A.’s photography within its socio-political circumstances in order to illuminate the ways in which both his practice and imagery assert a particular type of photographic sovereignty.

      Of the Lax Gibou (Wolf Clan) from the Ginadoiks tribe of the Tsimshian, B.A. Haldane was born to Matthew and Ada Haldane on June 15, 1874 in Metlakatla, British Columbia.6 B.A. was thirteen years old when he participated in the mass migration which established our community in 1887. Two years later, his formal schooling was cut short when after completing the grade three reading material B.A. was expelled by Duncan for the reason that “there was nothing more for him to learn.” 7 Like other missionaries at this time, Duncan tried to keep his First Nations converts at a level of education that would not threaten his authority. However, B.A. did not allow this experience to discourage him from continuing his education on his own. An avid reader with remarkable aptitude for learning, he taught himself both music and photography from books.8 B.A. played the piano, pipe organ, cornet, trombone, and violin as well as composed both orchestral music and translated Tsimshian songs to sheet music.9 From the time he was a young adult until late in his life, B.A. held the positions of band and choir director of the Metlakatla Christian Church in addition to teaching music in other First Nations communities and organizing several brass bands.10

      In 1899, B.A. established a business as a “scenic and portrait photographer” and opened a portrait studio in Metlakatla with the standard props, backdrops, and floor décor of the period. Senior Collections Manager at the Royal British Columbia Museum, Dan Savard, has deduced that B.A. was “the lone professional” among other Native photographers who were active on the Northwest Coast at this time, such as George Hunt (Kwakwaka’wakw) and Louis Shotridge (Tlingit), because he was the only one who owned a studio.11 By the 1890s, First Nations people were commissioning studio portraits in unprecedented numbers.12 Those who traveled from various communities throughout the Northwest Coast to have their portrait taken in B.A.’s studio, may have found additional prestige and meaning in having their images made by another First Nations person. His studio portraits adhered to conventions emphasizing wealth and respectability that were commonly reserved for images of Euro-American settlers (Figure 3).13

      In the late 1890s, B.A. started to teach music and take photographs in First Nations communities along the Northwest Coast. In 1903 and 1914, B.A. returned to the Nass River in British Columbia, where he had previously spent much time teaching music, to take photographs of what Duncan referred to as “heathen festivities.” As an early resident of Metlakatla, Alaska, B.A. lived under the “Declaration of Residents,” eight rules constructed by Duncan that outlawed the practice of ancient ceremonies and beliefs and made it mandatory to observe the Sabbath, attend school, and to be clean, industrious, and honest, with additional rules regarding land ownership and loyalty to the United States government.14 Rule five instructed: “to never attend heathen festivities, or to countenance heathen customs in other villages.” In light of this rule and the 1884 Canadian legislation outlawing potlatching, the socio-political circumstances in which B.A.’s practice and the people in his images exercised photographic sovereignty becomes apparent.

TOP Figure 4: Chief James Skean and his family, Gitlakdamiks (Aiyansh B.C.) taken by B.A. Haldane in 1914, PN 4330 Royal British Columbia Museum. BOTTOM Figure 5: Group in Native Dress taken on occasion of Edward Marsden's wedding day at Metlakahtla, 1901ACR#297646, Wellcome Colection. Left to right: "Solomom Burton, Henrietta Dundas, Alice Mather, Mrs. Adam Gordon Sr., Mrs. Edward Chalmers."

 By 1905, colonial authorities viewed photographs taken at potlatches as concrete evidence of illegal activities15. In a 1907 court case, a group of Kwakwaka’wakw people were even fully prosecuted as violators of the Potlatch Law using photographs taken years earlier as evidence.16 Both B.A.’s 1903 and the 1914 photographs of a high-ranking Nisga’a family of the village Laxgaltisap (Greenville, B.C.) and Gitlakdamiks (Aiyansh B.C.), shows men, women, and children wearing and displaying their ceremonial regalia and objects (Figures 4). The large amount of eagle-down that is noticeably dispersed over the people and floor in both photographs indicates that these images were taken directly after a potlatch or ceremony. Thus, the Nisga’a people in these images and B.A. were putting themselves at risk of prosecution by photographing this activity. Living under Duncan’s Declaration of Residents, B.A. could have also put in jeopardy his home and business as well. However, his position as a leader in our community allowed his work not only to flourish against Duncan’s “authority” but also to strengthen Metlakatla’s long standing resistance. This is also apparent in B.A.’s photographs of Edward Marsden’s (Tsimshian) and Lucy Kinninook’s (Tlingit) wedding reception in 1901 which shows people from our community openly wearing ceremonial regalia, which were prohibited by Duncan (Figure 5). Edward, who also took part in the migration to Metlakatla in 1887, graduated from Marietta College in Ohio and was ordained at Lane Theological Seminary in 1897. Against Duncan’s orders, he began the movement for a Presbyterian Church in our community, which was fully established in 1922. Edward and Lucy’s invitation to our community to wear their regalia to their wedding was an outward protest against Duncan forcing people to give up their ceremonial objects upon being baptized and moving to Alaska.

      B.A.’s photographs were also used by our community members, such as Sidney Campbell, to assert ceremonial and hereditary privileges. Sidney Campbell (ca. 1849-1934) was a young boy when Duncan first arrived on the coast of British Columbia in 1857 and he participated in the migration to Metlakatla in 1887. Of the Gispudwada (Killer Whale Clan) of the Ginadoiks tribe of the Tsimshian, Sidney’s S’malgyax name was Neeshlut, which was given to him during his initiation in and activities as a Gitsontk at Port Simpson, British Columbia.17 An exclusive society carver, the Gitsontk made objects imbued with supernatural powers to be used in the ceremonies of secret societies. Sidney is one of the few documented members of the Gitsontk.18 B.A. photographed Sidney as he continued to carve ceremonial objects in Metlakatla including full-size totem poles. Around 1910, B.A. photographed Sidney and a group of men with whom he shared his Gitsontk teachings in an area on the outskirts of our community (Figure 6). In this image Sidney is wearing the ceremonial regalia which he brought over from British Columbia despite Duncan’s demands. The remote location in which B.A. took this photograph compared to his images of people in regalia at Edward Marsden’s wedding alludes to the effort of Sidney and these other men to remove themselves from public, which is the protocol of the Gitsontk during their ceremonies.

      It is clear that in the socio-political circumstances of both Canada and Alaska that B.A.’s imagery and practice functioned as a dual means of photographic sovereignty both from his perspective as a photographer and from the perspectives of the First Nations people he photographed. These images have given our community visual affirmations which confirm our oral history concerning our ancestors efforts to strengthen and maintain our cultural traditions, values, and belief. The personal histories that I have explored through B.A.’s photography in this essay are only a few examples of those that have been marginalized or excluded from the written accounts of Metlakatla’s history. Many more are still waiting to be told.

Figure 6: This image was taken around 1905 on the outskirts of Metlakatla, Alaska. Sidney Campbell is identified as the fourth man from the left in a hand written note on the back. I have identified Paul Mather (first man on the left), George Eaton (on the left of Sidney), and B. Simpson (last man onthe right).

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This essay was orinially published in Blackflash: Seeing Red, Volume 24, No. 3, 2007, pp. 41-47.