Tag Archives: Alex

Clark M. Garber Collection

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The photos in this collection come from an unpublished manuscript, entitled ‘Atanak, the White Eskimo: a True Story of Alaska’ by Clark M. Garber as told to Edward R. Johnson.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.

Atanak.

Atanak.

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.

Oonalik, chief of the Innuits at Wales.

Oonalik, chief of the Innuits at Wales.

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?

Ooganeesee, Eskimo girl of Wales.

Ooganeesee, Eskimo girl of Wales.

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.

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Homer C. Votaw Collection

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.

Miller house

Miller house

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

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

Faceless man with blurry dog

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John Sigler Photograph Collection

Our indexer, Alex has finished describing the  John Sigler Photograph Collection which we have put online in Alaska’s Digital Archives.  Here’s what he has to say:

This collection consists of over 1400 photographs taken by John Sigler, a graduate of the University of Alaska Fairbanks’s class of 1950 or 1951. Though I only indexed a portion of the whole collection, it quickly became one of my favorites. Sigler is a brilliant stylist, and many of the photos are breathtakingly beautiful. Taken primarily during the early 1950s, they focus on Fairbanks and the University, with subjects like dances, parades, graduations, plays, and football games played in the snow. There are images of tanks and artillery lining the streets of downtown Fairbanks, and an image of Chief Justice Earl Warren shaking hands outside a University building. One memorable image depicts students playing with a polar bear cub, while another shows a cow parachuting lazily to the earth. Who put the cow in the parachute, you ask, and why did this person undertake such a ridiculous endeavor? I have no idea. Many of the photos came with little or no identifying information, leaving me to theorize and wonder (which, of course, is one of the joys of indexing). Here, for example, is a woman sitting at a table full of skulls. And she’s grinning!

Skulls galore

Skulls galore

Then there are the portraits, the candid images of campus life in the 1950s. As much as I love the stranger, more outlandish photos, I think I like these ones best. They depict a tea party shared in a 1950s living room, or a man in an overcoat, looking up at a stuffed bear, or two men adding breasts to a snowman and naming her “EVE.” There’s a certain liveliness and vivacity to these images, however irreverent they may be. They tell stories. I’m particularly fond of a photo in which a man and a woman share a kiss on a stage decorated in paper hearts. They appear to be the king and queen of something (a Valentine’s Day dance, perhaps?), but take a look at the way she balances her crown with one hand. Look at the way he’s touching her neck. It looks like real life.

Smooch

Smooch

Or what about this photo, the one with the woman posing at her desk? At her back, a shelf is loaded with books, causing me to wonder if maybe she’s a librarian. I’m totally enamored with a tiny detail in this photo: the glasses sitting on her desk. Notice the way they’ve been positioned, as if to suggest she’s just removed them, probably for this very photo. There’s something very lived-in, very human in that gesture, don’t you think? It evokes a naturalness and immediacy that transports me. A single, frozen moment becomes a whole series of moments. There is movement now. Time is passing. And then I’m standing in the room across from her. The photographer adjusts his lens, and I can smell the musty books. It’s 1951.

In the library

In the library

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