The First Americans: Photographs from the Library of Congress

William H. Goetzmann, Text by (Art/Photo Books), Owen Andrews, Compiled by Fulcrum Group Publishing $34.95 (144p) ISBN 978-0-912347-96-7
This volume demonstrates that melodramatic images created by commercial photographers of the late 19th and early 20th centuries perpetuated fallacies about Native Americans. Goetzmann ( Exploration and Empire ) selects photos of ``real Indians'' and costumed actors, and explains how professional photographers and artists interpreted Native American culture according to classical and romantic ideals. The work of Edward S. Curtis, who attempted to document the tribal way of life, is well represented here: he depicts braves on horseback riding to war, captures humble dwellings against dramatic mountain backgrounds and shoots portraits of melancholy individuals. We see members of Wild West shows, sacred ceremonies treated as tourist attractions, George Trager's sensationalistic images of the dead at Wounded Knee and staged scenes inspired by movies. Goetzmann points out the sentimental elements that encourage misinterpretation of Native American history. (Dec.)
Reviewed on: 09/02/1991
Release date: 09/01/1991
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