The Photograph and the American Indian

Mitchell-The Photograph and the American Indian
September 06, 1994

In this first major book to present a comprehensive look at photographs of Indians by both Native and Anglo Americans, from 1840 to the present, we are offered a compelling array of images reproduced with exacting respect for the physical qualities of the photograph as a document. Alfred Bush and Lee Mitchell help us see these photographs not only as historical artifacts but as rich texts that describe their makers as tellingly as their subjects. More than three hundred images relate an important tale of the intrusion of technology into the traditional life of the American Indian, and the political uses both Native Americans and Anglo Americans found for the photograph.

These photographs reveal the many agendas of both photographers and American Indians. From images pandering to popular stereotypes to ones that catch troubling realities, these photographs encourage us to consider the photographic enterprise from various perspectives, including those of Native Americans. Contradicting the common notion that Native American photographers are a recent phenomenon, Indians make their appearance as photographers in this work as early as the 1880s with portrayals as varied and conflicted as any by Anglo Americans. The exciting dynamics among multiple American cultures encountering each other through art and technology is masterfully documented here. The text provides authoritative dating of the photographs, biographies of the photographers, and an extensive bibliography. This is a treasurehouse for readers with interests in Native Americans and their history and in the history of photography.

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