If you haven't caught the "Seeing Ourselves" exhibit of classic American photographs (from the Eastman collection in Rochester) at the New York State Museum, you have until May 9 before it leaves Albany. Many of the photos, like Dorothea Lange's "Migrant Mother," are very familiar. Here's a link to the 1936 Lange photo at the top of a review on the Get Visual blog. The mother's tough, harried, beautiful face is familiar, but I'd forgotten her two children, heads turned toward her and away from the camera.
You notice more on the originals, like the tiny individual trees you can make out on the ridges in the clarity of Ansel Adams' Yosemite. Alfred Stieglitz is represented by two very different photos, "Steerage" showing the poorer passengers on a ship, and a stunning small head shot of painter (and his future wife) Georgia O'Keeffe. Martin Luther King is seen at a political event a few months before his death, listening to Dick Gregory with wide-awake eyes.
There is a remarkable large group portrait of 21 Indian chiefs in 1889, dressed in suits and ties, on the occasion of the ratification of the sale of lands in the Dakotas to the U.S. government. "Americanization" of Native Americans is now deplored on the average college campus, where professors are likely to denounce mission schools and share Sen. Kevin Parker's views about the evils of white supremacy. No doubt they would see the Indians being exploited or selling out. The photograph reminded me of the career of an upstate New Yorker, Ely Parker, who was commissioner of Indian affairs 20 years before, and before that an Army general, the staff officer who drew up the surrender document at Appomattox, an engineer and lawyer -- and a Seneca Indian chief.