Jacknis (1992). George Hunt: Kwakiutl Photographer. (Anthropology and Photography, 1860-1920)

Jacknis, I. (1992). George Hunt: Kwakiutl Photographer. In E. Edwards & R. A. I. of G. B. and Ireland (Eds.), Anthropology and Photography, 1860-1920 (pp. 143–151). London: Royal Anthropological Institute.
  • George Hunt born in 1854 to English-born father and Tlingit mother in Fort Rupert, BC.
  • Raised as Kwakiutl. Married Kwakiutl women. “Participated actively in Kwakiutl potlatches and ceremonialism.” (p 143)
  • Brother-in-law to Stephen Allen Spencer, “one of the first photographers in Victoria.”
  • Spoke English early in life.
  • Became assistant to Frank Boas, first meeting him in 1888.
  • With Boas attended the Chicago World’s Fair in 1893.
  • Recognized value of camera early in his career in ethnographic documentation. Probably learned some technical from Spencer.

“… there are no indications in these early letters that he [Boas] directed Hunt’s photography. Apparently it was Hunt’s idea to get a camera, and all his early use of it seems to be at his own initiative.” (p 144)

  • Between 1906-1911, Hunt received some direction from Boas, requesting specific kinds of documentation.
  • Assistant to E.S. Curtis from 1912 to 1915.
  • Hunt was “critical of Curtis’ approach.” (p 145)

“Not only did Curtis not photograph the most important elements according to Kwakiutl viewpoint, but, unlike Boas, he was interested principally in visual effect …” (p 145)

“In the twenties and thirties, as Boas and Hunt were ending more than four decades of ethnographic collaboration, they became acutely aware of the historical nature of photographs. On one level, beyond their use for scientific documentation, these images could serve as personal _souvenirs_ or mementoes of past people and events.” (p 145)

  •  Died 1933.

“George Hunt must be counted as perhaps the earliest and most important of Native American ethnographic photographers.” (p 145)

“A review of the Hunt corpus indicates that he did possess a distinctive native approach to ethnographic photography. This can be found primarily in his choice of subject, but also in his visual style and documentation. Unlike photographs of the Haida studied by Blackman (1981:68), which emphasize houses and totem poles, Hunt’s photographs deal overwhelmingly with human activity. … His few portraits tend to feature individuals important in Kwakiutl ritual.” (p 146)

“George Hunt’s principal photographic subject was ceremonialism. … his special access was no doubt greatly facilitated by the fact that he himself was a shaman …” (p 146)

“As a local resident, Hunt clearly had opportunities denied to more transient photographers.” (p 147)

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