By Donna Gustafson
Curator of Exhibitions
The American Federation of Arts
Horace Poolaw, a Kiowa Indian who lived from 1906 to 1984, is the only American Indian of his generation to be recognized as a professional photographer. Poolaw photographed the most significant events if his tribe, as well as the everyday life of his family and friends. KIOWA CULTURE IN TRANSITION, 1925 - 1955: THE PHOTOGRAPHS OF HORACE POOLAW concentrates on one among many periods of dramatic change in the Kiowa community.
The Horace Poolaw Photography Project grew out of a series of discussions between Charles Junkerman, then assistant dean of undergraduate studies at Stanford University, and Linda Poolaw, the photographer's daughter. Looking for an individual to teach a course on the culture of the American Indian, Dr. Junkerman invited Ms. Poolaw, a sculptor and playright who traces her descent from her mother's side, is a Delaware Indian. She agreed to teach the class and, eager to give her students visual evidence of American Indian life, arrived at Stanford with over seventeen hundred of her father's negatives (many of them had never been printed).
Together, Linda Poolaw and Charles Junkerman developed the year-long seminar as a special project. Students helped print all the negatives and research the individuals represented. They also assisted in the selection of a group of photographs for an exhibition at Stanford. Linda Poolaw and her students traveled to Anadarko [Oklahoma] on three separate occasions to enlist the help of Kiowa elders who sifted through the photographs identifying people and events. The process of remembering brought the Kiowa generations together, as children were introduced to the photographs of deceased relatives, and younger people were confronted with images of their parents or grandparents.
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