Nez Perce and Photography, 2.13
I am currently reading Short Nights of the Shadow Catcher: The Epic Life and Immortal Photographs of Edward Curtis by Timothy Egan. I saw many of Curtis’s prints in Seattle’s Pioneer Square some 25 years ago. While in graduate school, Curtis and his photographs were touched upon in photographic history classes, though generally through the lens of their problematics in terms of representation. Reading Egan’s contemporary account is highly engaging, historically informative, and a fresh view on Curtis and his vision.
Egan writes at length about Chief Joseph and his legacy. While visiting the Wallawa mountains in Oregon (the original home of the Nez Perce and Chief Joseph) I felt both a deep respect and sadness for the Nez Perce people, who had to give up basically everything. The book Chief Joseph and the Nez Perces: A Photographic History by Bill and Jan Moeller documents the battlefield, campsites, river crossings, and trails that the Nez Perce travelled while fleeing the US Army in 1877.
Rebecca Solnit’s 1996 essay, “The Postmodern Old West, or The Precision of Cowboys and Indians”, is a contemporary critical reading of varying mythologies associated with the American west. Ms. Solnit will be in the Palouse at the end of this month, both at UI and WSU. I am very much looking forward to meeting her and showing Ms. Solnit around WSU.
In her essay The Struggle of Dawning Intelligence: Creating, Revising, and Recognizing Native American Monument (1999), Ms. Solnit discusses the book of photographs by Drex Brooks entitled Sweet Medicine: Sites of Indian Massacres Battlefields and Treaties. Nicole Pasulka writes in her introduction for an interview with Brooks for the Morning News, “The history, culture, and even present-day existence of Native Americans are often unnoticed outside reservations. In his “Sweet Medicine” project, Drex Brooks photographed historical sites where conflict between Native Americans and white settlers occurred. Brooks’s work forces audiences to consider the massacres and exploitation Native Americans suffered at the hands of these settlers. The stillness of these overgrown or repopulated sites reminds us of what’s been forgotten and what’s missing.” You can see some pictures from the book and read an interview in the Morning News Sweet Medicine.