Candy Moulton: Reading the West 10-10-11
October 11, 2011
Some of the greatest books I receive are those that are intended for the coffee table because they are over-sized and filled with outstanding images. They are the kind of book that you can enjoy in doses, and don’t need to carve out a chunk of time to read “straight through.”
New titles that fit that category include “Arena Legacy: The Heritage of American Rodeo” by Richard C. Rattenbury. It features photography by Ed Muno and a foreword by Larry Mahan and is an absolute “must have” for anyone interested in American Rodeo. Rattenbury, the curator of history at the National Cowboy and Western Heritage Museum, takes rodeo from its beginnings in 1869 in Colorado, to national prominence in the 1960s. He shows how rodeo played a part in county fairs, cattlemen’s conventions, and community celebrations across the country.
The volume also highlights the outstanding collections of the National Cowboy and Western Heritage Museum. It is a book to savor.
“Life at the Kiowa, Comanche, and Wichita Agency: The Photographs of Annette Ross Hume” by Kristina L. Southwell and John R. Lovett is a marvelous collection of photographs. Victorian era photographer Annette Ross Hume is wearing an elegantly styled two piece outfit and a flower and feather adorned hat, with a flower pinned to her left breast in a photograph made from a glass plate found among her archival records, which were donated to the University of Oklahoma. She has on a dark cape over a suit with a different stylish hat, in a photograph taken with her family, and she wears no hat, but has on a high-necked top in a studio portrait taken of her at the studio of F. R. Barrows in Fort Wayne, Ind. These three photographs of Mrs. Hume are fascinating. But it is her own work as a photographer that will entice you to obtain Life at the Kiowa, Comanche, and Wichita Agency.
Anadarko, Okla., site of the agency, was not much more than a frontier village when Hume arrived in 1890 to begin documenting with her camera the people who now made this Indian Agency town their home. Her husband, Charles Hume, served as physician at the agency, and she took photos. Although identified as an amateur photographer, there is nothing amateurish about the images she made. They are a slice of life showing children and adults, places and faces. True, some of the photographs are not sharply focused or particularly well-lit, but those few images are balanced by the truly exquisite ones she took, like “Julia’s Daughter,” a young Kiowa girl in full traditional dress standing before a lodge; “Comanche Woman and Great-Grandchild,” a marvelous juxtaposition of faces; and “Flooded Washita River,” with teams drinking as a variety of wagons sit in the river.
She often photographed her subjects in sharp detail standing before their homes or some other natural backdrop, giving a view of not only the people, but also their surroundings.
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In a final image of Mrs. Hume as an older woman, she is formally posed sitting on a chair, wearing gloves but no hat. And the dress appears to be the same as the full-length photo of her included in the book’s introduction.
While Southwell and Lovett turned to historic photographs for their book about the Kiowa, Comanche and Wichita Agency, photographer Sara Wiles has concentrated on contemporary Indians in her book “Arapaho Journeys: Photographs and Stories” from the Wind River Reservation. The book encompasses three decades of Northern Arapaho life, presenting not just stunning photographs, but an evocative narrative that takes you into the lives of these native people who live, work, play and raise their families in Central Wyoming.
Arapaho Journeys features more than 100 images and 40 essays documenting reservation life. All three of these books are published by the University of Oklahoma Press.