Alfred Kroeber, photographer unknown
Alfred Kroeber
Photographer unknown
[BANC PIC 1978.128--PIC box 2]


Alfred Kroeber is regarded as the founder of California Indian studies, and his use of the camera as an ethnographic and anthropological tool produced an important collection of California photographs.

Kroeber first arrived in California in 1900, to conduct research for the American Museum of Natural History in New York. In August 1900, Kroeber was appointed Curator of Anthropology at the California Academy of Sciences in San Francisco. The following year Kroeber was offered a position in the new museum and department of Anthropology at the University of California, then being formed under the patronage of Phoebe Apperson Hearst. Kroeber was officially appointed curator in 1908; he became the Museum's director in 1925.

As Kroeber explained in the preface to his Handbook of the Indians of California, his mission was to "reconstruct and present the scheme within which these people in ancient and more recent times lived their lives." Kroeber went on to explain that he was omitting "accounts of the relations of the natives with the whites and of the events befalling them after such contact was established." He would, he added, consider post-contact culture only when necessary to "form an estimate of an ancient vanished culture."

The image on the right is an unidentified Indian, whose portrait is captured on a cyanotype print. The cyanotype is blue in color, and served as a common method of photographic reproduction at the end of the nineteenth century and the beginning of the twentieth century.

The black and white portrait of Kroeber (above), staring defiantly into the camera with his feet firmly spread and hands thrust into pants pockets, differs widely from that of the unidentified Indian, whose facial expression and posture suggest an undefined, or hidden, personality.

Unidentified Indian, photographer unknown
Unidentified Indian
Photographer unknown
[BANC PIC 1978.128--PIC box 3]

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