Shadow Catchers: Agendas and Techniques of Pioneer photographers in the American Southwest

Abstract: (Excerpt from Introduction)
In the nineteenth century, the creation of photography was seen as a technological marvel by Anglo-American society. It became a way to see the "world as it really is" (Collier and Collier 1986:8). During this period the pioneer photographer was seen in many lights by different people either as an artist, an historian, or as an interloper. American society saw the photographer as a Shadow Catcher because "they used the light of the sun to capture on a surface of metal or glass a permanent image" (Broder 1990:15). Members of Native American societies, however, often saw the photographer as a Shadow Stealer. Some Native Americans liked having their pictures taken, yet photographs were often seen as controversial. It was often felt that the "very glare of full disclosure valued by the technological society threatened the disappearance of "shadow" truths essential to tribal cultures" (Bush & Mitchell 1994:xii). Many photographers from the dominant society were interested in all aspects of Native cultures. They wanted to record not only domestic and social life but religious and ceremonial activities. Therefore, many photographs taken by pioneer photographers were considered invasive to Native American cultures.


Brenda McLain


K. Tsianina Lomawaima





Arizona State Museum: 

M9791 M193s
College of Social and Behavioral Sciences