Performing Archive

In a Piegan Lodge

Ken Gonzales-Day, Scripps College

"In a Piegan Lodge" has been widely written on because it is one of the most blatant examples of the kinds of manipulations that took place in the studio. The manipulations could also be seen as a kind of violence, in that they alter and undermine the truth claims of the photographic image. In this example, the original image contained a small round and very modern alarm clock that was sitting on the floor between the two figures. For Curtis, the clock implied modernity, and was removed when the negative was transferred to the brass plate used to make the photogravure. As described previously, the plate was then inked and used to make the final print. In the portfolio print one can clearly see where the correction occurred by the weird spherical blur that appears just left of the elbow of the man on the right. Perhaps at this juncture it would be wise to remind readers, and viewers, that there are actually no “photographs” in The North American Indian and that all the images are direct prints from the copper plates. The original image was shot on a glass dry-plate negative and then transferred to the copper plate by hand. The copper plate was then inked and then cleaned before each new print, and finally printed on paper. See the two images side by side here.

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