Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Early photos of Chief Joseph



Goff photo used by Bartlett
Ann Hayes, the late Grace Bartlett’s daughter, came by with a folder full of photos and clippings from her mother’s papers (which are being cataloged by Shannon Maslach). We were looking for originals –or at least good prints—of photos used in Grace’s small booklet on the Wallowas.  Ann wants to reprint, and we want to improve the quality of the photos.

Among the material was information on some of the early photos of Chief Joseph. The one Grace used in her booklet, which she reproduced “courtesy of Mrs. L.R. Hamblen of Spokane,” is in fact one of the earliest photos of Joseph, and although there was for some time controversy about the photographer, there seems to be general agreement now that it was Orlando Goff.

But there was another bit of information in Grace’s files about another photographer, John Fouch, who had set up a photo shop at Fort Keogh MT shortly before the arrival of the Nez Perce prisoners. Two photos of Chief Joseph and reference to an article in American Heritage popped up on the internet. The American Heritage article, from November of 1992, was written by a collector named James Brust, who had found a stereoscopic photo of the Custer Battlefield, tracked it to Fouch, then tracked Fouch to living relatives, and turned up a set of photos of Indians taken in the late 1870s. 

Fouch photo on Nerburn book
I had seen one of the photos before, on the cover of the paperback edition of Kent Nerburn’s book, Chief Joseph and the Flight of the Nez Perce. It’s a haunting photo, Joseph with sad but still strong eyes, fur wrapped around his braids, a shirt that is identified elsewhere as Crow—either a previous gift or one loaned to him for the photo, and hair brushed up in traditional Nez Perce style, showing white in the photo. Was it colored? Or is this a trick of the photo?

Interestingly, there is no attribution of the photo in the book. Was this an oversight—or done intentionally? It appears on the Smithsonian web site that Brust holds a copy—maybe the only copy—of the original, but has sent copies of the Fouch photos he found to the Smithsonian. 

I am not about to chase after the details regarding theses early photos of Joseph. For me it is important to note that they are probably the first photos of him, and that they were taken soon after the surrender, when he was still in his thirties. The more common photos of Joseph were taken much later—E.S. Curtis in 1900 I believe—after he had fought and grieved for the Wallowa Homeland for almost a quarter century. 

Fouch photo


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