Our indexer, Alex has finished describing the Homer C. Votaw Collection which we have put online in Alaska’s Digital Archives. Here’s what he has to say:
The Homer C. Votaw Collection includes an album of photographs taken and assembled by Homer Votaw’s mother between 1905 and 1915. Many of the photos were taken in and around Circle, Alaska (thus the album’s informal name: “The Circle Album”), though other locations are included. Subjects include landscapes, cityscapes, steamboats, close-ups of flora and fauna, and portraits, though the portraits are most striking, providing a distinctive look into Alaskan frontier life at the turn of the 20th century.
Take, for example, “Miller house,” a family portrait. Everything about this photo seems cut from the cloth of a different era, from the clothing on up to the facial expressions (smiling for pictures, as we know, is a more modern convention). I’m particularly delighted by the patriarchal figure in the center, identified in the album as ‘Cap’ Griffin. Everything about this guy seems bygone, even the nickname. I have to imagine that the only proper greeting for a ‘Cap’ Griffin would be a doffed cap or a curtsy.
And while many of the photos seem dragged up from a different century, there are others that seem positively alien. “Dumping out the barrow” is one such example. (Have you ever seen John Carpenter’s The Thing?) I love the surreality that the snowy atmosphere, the refuse pile, and the man’s straight-backed posture all lend to this picture. What world is this that we, the viewers, have just wandered into? And what on earth has got him staring off into the distance so attentively? Have a look at the background’s spectral trees….
Dumping out the barrow
Finally, for those horror fans among us, those steel-nerved aficionados of all things unsettling, eerie, spine-tingling, and macabre, I beseech you, look no further than “Faceless man with blurry dog.” Gaze upon this image and know the depths of horror! By what witchcraft has this man been scrubbed of all his features? From what circle of Hell has this devil dog come howling? The answer, friend, lurks in the darkness just beyond the doorway. Step inside and see…
Faceless man with blurry dog