Mosa – Mohave, 1903

There is such beauty, longing and uncertainty in these photos. I was given this book for Christmas by a dear friend and can’t stop gazing into these women’s eyes and imagining their lives. I myself have some Native American by way of the Cherokees in my makeup but unfortunately don’t know nearly enough about the history and ways of these people.

The photographer, Edward Curtis, was twenty-seven years old when he began documenting and photographing the women. One of his main subjects, Princess Angeline, daughter of the Chief of Seattle, became one of his most famous subjects and was known for her temper and refusal to leave her homeland. After she passed away Edward states the following: “The passing of every old man or woman means the passing of some tradition, some knowledge of sacred rites possessed by no other; consequently the information that is to be gathered for the benefit of future generations, respecting the mode of life of one of the great races of mankind, must be collected at once or the opportunity will be lost for all time.”

Princess Angeline, 1899

I think his statement is what draws me so strongly to these images; the idea that had these never been documented, all traces of history and culture would fade away without us even realizing the beauty that we would never see. The pictures in the book show women working; making pots, harvesting rice, digging for clams; everyday rituals that make up their culture. It all speaks to my interest in traditions and heirlooms and rites of passage.  What they were facing in the months and years to come was unknown, but they did realize that their history was changing and they were moving away from life as they knew it.

A Hopi Girl – 1905

It makes me realize the value of photography and it’s ability to translate history for future generations.  Please take a look and let me know your thoughts. And if you happen to run across this book, you should definitely pick it up, it’s a great addition to any art library. Enjoy!

Untitled (Girl with Jar) – Hopi, 1900

You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.

Leave a Reply