Standing rock portraits, blad

Page 1


Frank Bennett Fiske and Western Photography by Rod Slemmons

A

lthough the bulk of Fiske’s work at Fort Yates was studio por-

traiture of military personnel and local families, he retained an enthusiasm for Indian portraits. Growing up among the Sioux provided a rare opportunity to know the people he photographed in more than a passing manner. This familiarity, along with the tradition of Indian portraiture established by Goff and Barry, undoubtedly informed

W

Fiske’s style as a photographer.

hen Frank Fiske began his career as a photographer at Fort Yates,

The focus is as sharp as the cameras and lenses of the time would allow,

North Dakota in 1890, he was following in the footsteps of several of the

in order to document every detail in the faces and costumes. The light-

earliest portrait-makers among the Sioux people. His significance and

ing, often raking and from a single source, heightens the dramatic effect.

style is best understood as an inheritance of his predecessors, Orlando

It would appear that stock, commercially produced backdrops were used,

Scott Goff, David F. Barry and S.T. Fansler.

depicting a fanciful Indian camp or, ironically, Victorian interiors and gardens. George Fiske, Frank’s father, may have painted the backdrop

“Interestingly, both Barry and

Goff, who is credited with making the first portrait of Sitting Bull, came

showing the Indian camp. There is evidence to suggest he did; he listed

Fiske inherited their styles and

to Dakota Territory in 1871. After working there and in Montana during

his occupation in the U.S. Census for 1900 as “painter,” and is known

equipment from an earlier

the 1870’s, he established a studio in Bismarck in 1880. Goff and his

to have made backdrops for theatrical productions at the military post.

time. Self-taught, itinerant

apprentice, David F. Barry, produced an important body of work doc-

Straight-forward clarity, the strength of Fiske’s style, is important for the

photographers; those who

umenting participants in the “Indian Wars,” which had captured the

contemporary viewer because of the wealth of detail it provides.

worked in the more remote

attention of the nation in the years following the Battle of the Little Big-

areas of the country continued

horn. In 1886, Goff moved to Montana and turned his Bismarck studio

Interestingly, both Barry and Fiske inherited their styles and equipment “The focus is as sharp as

to use equipment and devices

over to his assistant. Barry continued to photograph Indians. More than

from an earlier time. Self-taught, itinerant photographers; those who the cameras and lenses of the

which had already been

one thousand of his most important negatives are now housed at the

worked in the more remote areas of the country continued to use equip- time would allow, in order to

Denver Public Library.

ment and devices which had already been discarded elsewhere. In Fiske’s document every detail in the

discarded elsewhere.”

portrait, Indian Wranglers, one of the men sits in a fringed, one-armed faces and costumes. At about the time Goff left Bismarck, S.T. Fansler took over the studio at

chair, an artistic device dating from the days of the daguerreotype. But The lighting, often raking

Fort Yates where Goff and Barry had worked briefly. Fansler also made

more importantly, by the time Fiske began his career, the style he had and from a single source,

portraits of the Sioux, but the lucrative trade in pictures of the wild

learned had been replaced, among others of his profession, by Pictori- heightens the dramatic effect.”

west had diminished by the end of the century as the nation’s attention

alism, which was characterized by soft-focus lenses, dramatic close-ups,

focused on the Yukon Gold Rush and the Spanish American War. When

flattened tonal range, backgrounds either abstractly textured or without

Fansler decided to give up his business at Fort Yates in late 1899, his

detail, and angular composition. Fiske’s contemporary (they died in the

sixteen-year-old assistant, Frank Fiske, took over the studio.

same year) Edward S. Curtis was a master of this style.


Frank Bennett Fiske and Western Photography by Rod Slemmons

A

lthough the bulk of Fiske’s work at Fort Yates was studio por-

traiture of military personnel and local families, he retained an enthusiasm for Indian portraits. Growing up among the Sioux provided a rare opportunity to know the people he photographed in more than a passing manner. This familiarity, along with the tradition of Indian portraiture established by Goff and Barry, undoubtedly informed

W

Fiske’s style as a photographer.

hen Frank Fiske began his career as a photographer at Fort Yates,

The focus is as sharp as the cameras and lenses of the time would allow,

North Dakota in 1890, he was following in the footsteps of several of the

in order to document every detail in the faces and costumes. The light-

earliest portrait-makers among the Sioux people. His significance and

ing, often raking and from a single source, heightens the dramatic effect.

style is best understood as an inheritance of his predecessors, Orlando

It would appear that stock, commercially produced backdrops were used,

Scott Goff, David F. Barry and S.T. Fansler.

depicting a fanciful Indian camp or, ironically, Victorian interiors and gardens. George Fiske, Frank’s father, may have painted the backdrop

“Interestingly, both Barry and

Goff, who is credited with making the first portrait of Sitting Bull, came

showing the Indian camp. There is evidence to suggest he did; he listed

Fiske inherited their styles and

to Dakota Territory in 1871. After working there and in Montana during

his occupation in the U.S. Census for 1900 as “painter,” and is known

equipment from an earlier

the 1870’s, he established a studio in Bismarck in 1880. Goff and his

to have made backdrops for theatrical productions at the military post.

time. Self-taught, itinerant

apprentice, David F. Barry, produced an important body of work doc-

Straight-forward clarity, the strength of Fiske’s style, is important for the

photographers; those who

umenting participants in the “Indian Wars,” which had captured the

contemporary viewer because of the wealth of detail it provides.

worked in the more remote

attention of the nation in the years following the Battle of the Little Big-

areas of the country continued

horn. In 1886, Goff moved to Montana and turned his Bismarck studio

Interestingly, both Barry and Fiske inherited their styles and equipment “The focus is as sharp as

to use equipment and devices

over to his assistant. Barry continued to photograph Indians. More than

from an earlier time. Self-taught, itinerant photographers; those who the cameras and lenses of the

which had already been

one thousand of his most important negatives are now housed at the

worked in the more remote areas of the country continued to use equip- time would allow, in order to

Denver Public Library.

ment and devices which had already been discarded elsewhere. In Fiske’s document every detail in the

discarded elsewhere.”

portrait, Indian Wranglers, one of the men sits in a fringed, one-armed faces and costumes. At about the time Goff left Bismarck, S.T. Fansler took over the studio at

chair, an artistic device dating from the days of the daguerreotype. But The lighting, often raking

Fort Yates where Goff and Barry had worked briefly. Fansler also made

more importantly, by the time Fiske began his career, the style he had and from a single source,

portraits of the Sioux, but the lucrative trade in pictures of the wild

learned had been replaced, among others of his profession, by Pictori- heightens the dramatic effect.”

west had diminished by the end of the century as the nation’s attention

alism, which was characterized by soft-focus lenses, dramatic close-ups,

focused on the Yukon Gold Rush and the Spanish American War. When

flattened tonal range, backgrounds either abstractly textured or without

Fansler decided to give up his business at Fort Yates in late 1899, his

detail, and angular composition. Fiske’s contemporary (they died in the

sixteen-year-old assistant, Frank Fiske, took over the studio.

same year) Edward S. Curtis was a master of this style.


Gray Hawk

The golden eagle headdress is trimmed with hair and ribbons and has a bead work head band with prairie chicken feathers. The breast ornament is of milk glass tube beads with elk hide strips and trade mirrors. Across his lap is a parfleche or quiver. [ no date ]


Gray Hawk

The golden eagle headdress is trimmed with hair and ribbons and has a bead work head band with prairie chicken feathers. The breast ornament is of milk glass tube beads with elk hide strips and trade mirrors. Across his lap is a parfleche or quiver. [ no date ]


Chief Mad Bear


Chief Mad Bear


Dunn Girl

Dentalia cape with a glass trade bead necklace over a trade cloth dress trimmed with “hawk” bells, flat trade buttons, dentalia and what appear to be imitation elk teeth. The belt or “drag” is of trade silver conchos. She is standing on a bobcat skin. [ ca. 1900 ]


Dunn Girl

Dentalia cape with a glass trade bead necklace over a trade cloth dress trimmed with “hawk” bells, flat trade buttons, dentalia and what appear to be imitation elk teeth. The belt or “drag” is of trade silver conchos. She is standing on a bobcat skin. [ ca. 1900 ]


Plains Indian Ledger Art

The visual style of the ledger drawing was developed out of a fusion of older documentary traditions, such as petroglyphs (on rock), pictographs (on bark and hide), and the newer media of ink, lead, colored pencil, paper and muslin. These drawings serve as valuable, first-hand biographical documentation of the personal and cultural histories of a Native people. This new synthesis of representational art told the stories of battles, bravery, and loss. They told of Native lives as hunters and horsemen of the Plains, and of the rich, ceremonial and cultural life of a people–a way of life much threatened by soldiers and settlers flooding into traditional lands.


Plains Indian Ledger Art

The visual style of the ledger drawing was developed out of a fusion of older documentary traditions, such as petroglyphs (on rock), pictographs (on bark and hide), and the newer media of ink, lead, colored pencil, paper and muslin. These drawings serve as valuable, first-hand biographical documentation of the personal and cultural histories of a Native people. This new synthesis of representational art told the stories of battles, bravery, and loss. They told of Native lives as hunters and horsemen of the Plains, and of the rich, ceremonial and cultural life of a people–a way of life much threatened by soldiers and settlers flooding into traditional lands.




ACKNOWLEDGMENTS We thank the State Historical Society of North Dakota for access to the Frank Fiske Archive and for their cooperation in realizing this book.

COLOPHON Copyright Š 2018 Uitgeverij TERRA Terra is part of Uitgeverij TerraLannoo bv P.O. Box 97 3990 DB Houten The Netherlands info@terralannoo.nl www.terra-publishing.com Text: Photography: Frank Bennett Fiske Graphic design: Murray Lemley Lithography: DPS online, Amsterdam First print, 2018 ISBN 978 90 8989 771 8 NUR 653 All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced and/or made public by means of printing, photocopying, microfilm or by any other means, without the prior written permission of the publisher.