Our indexer, Alex has finished describing the Clark M. Garber Collection which we have put online in Alaska’s Digital Archives. Here’s what he has to say:
The photos in this collection come from an unpublished manuscript, entitled ‘Atanak, the White Eskimo: a True Story of Alaska’ by Clark M. Garber as told to Edward R. Johnson. Together, the manuscript and its photos detail the years Garber (aka ‘Atanak’) spent working in Alaska for the U.S. Bureau of Education, from 1925 – 1933. The photographs consist mainly of portraits and action shots depicting Garber’s interactions with Alaska Natives, though the collection also contains maps, landscapes, and others.
Of all my photos, though, my favorites are the portraits. I love the windows they can open into others’ lives, and I love the ways in which the notes and captions can sometimes open windows within those windows. Take, for example, ‘Atanak.’ Here we have Garber in Native attire. The caption reads, simply, ‘Atanak.’ A note included with the manuscript indicates that this image was to be used as the manuscript’s ‘Frontispiece,’ which suggests to me that this was exactly how Garber—the manuscript’s author—intended us to see him. There’s something about that expression of intent that alters my perception of him. It’s not a false intent, exactly. But it is crafted.
Contrast that with this image: ‘Oonalik, chief of the Innuits at Wales.’ Note his bearing and his posture here. If I were to remove the caption, and present you with only the image of Oonalik, would you have any doubt if I told you he was a chief?
My favorite of all the photos, though, is ‘Ooganeesee, Eskimo girl of Wales.’ I love her proud stance here, the way in which the wind can be seen stirring the fur on her parka. In particular, I love her selection of story to share with Garber: ‘How an Eskimo Maid Jilted Her Suitor.’ There’s a certain synergy between her story selection and the way she’s represented by the photo. Maybe ‘How an Eskimo Maid Jilted Her Suitor’ was a favorite of hers. I, for one, wouldn’t doubt it.