At the National Museum of the American Indian, an Expansive Retropective of Horace Poolaw's Photography
January 13, 2017
Horace Poolaw is hardly a household name in photographic history, but he gets his much-delayed due in an expansive retrospective at the National Museum of the American Indian.
Poolaw (1904-1984) was a Kiowa who plied his trade in and around his hometown of Anadarko, Okla. While many of his images were taken at special ceremonial gatherings with the expected teepees and beaded regalia, Poolaw’s most revelatory images are those that documented the daily lives of Native Americans and the whites who were their neighbors.
As the exhibit sagely notes, “Outsiders in search of imaginied ‘authentic’ Indian culture rarely turned their cameras on the actual lives of Native people who were adapting American mass culture to their own.” The fact that Poolaw was an Indian documenting other Indians sets his work apart from the better-known Indian photography, which was mostly done by 19th century white documentarists.