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Navajo and Photography
A Critical History of the Representation of an American People
James C. Faris
"Our God Tscorenci was our Father and created the sun, which is like a mirror. He sees us from up on high and makes photographs of our reflection. When we die the photograph disappears. Many have been lost."
—Kenchori, an Asháninka from Peruvian Amazonia, when asked to tell a story concerning cameras (From W. Baker, Backward: An Essay on Indians, Time, and Photography).
Historically photographs say less about the Navajo than about photographers of Navajos. In Navajo and Photography James Faris calls attention to the inability of photographs of Navajo by non-Navajo to communicate either the lived experiences of native people or their history. Beginning with the earliest photographs of Navajos in captivity at Bosque Redondo and including the most recent glossy picture books and calendars, Faris’s survey points out assumptions that have always governed photographic representation of the Navajo people. Full of the work of photographers such as Edward S. Curtis and Laura Gilpin, as well as photographs by many less-well known figures, readers will find Navajo and Photography an enlightening juxtaposition of cultures.
James Faris is emeritus professor of anthropology at the University of Connecticut and is the author of The Nightway: A History and A History of Documentation of a Navajo Ceremonial.
Table of Contents:
Preface and Acknowledgments
1. The Gaze of Western Humanism
2. The Registers of Photography of Navajo
3. A Historical Sketch of Nineteenth-Century Photography of Navajo
4. The Vanishing Race: Edward S. Curtis
5. Photography of Navajo to Mid-Century: Saturated Fields of Visibility
6. The Endearing Navajo: Laura Gilpin
7. Selling Navajo Images: Contemporary Picture Books and Photographic Modernism
8. Navajo Photographers
Chart 1. List of Photographers of Navajo
Chart 2. List of Color Slide Companies/Postal Card Companies/Stock Companies of Navajo Images
Chart 3. List of Navajo Photographers
Praise and Reviews:
"This important and durable work sets a new standard for the study of photography and culture."
—The Journal of the West
"This book should be required reading for all who share a concern for the ways in which photographs help shape how we perceive and ‘understand’ a subject."