To my surprise I found the most interesting exhibition of photography yesterday. I went to the little, Swedish town in the mountains, Funäsdalen, to visit a festival of the indigenous Southern Sámi people, The Lopme Naestie. In the museum there was a photography exhibition, a meeting between the famous american Edward S. Curtis (1868-1952) and his legacy of the North American Indian, and Nils Thomasson (1880-1975), who was a Swedish reindeer herder and photographer.
I know the work of Curtis have been disputed, he has been criticized for making people pose, for staging a time that was not really there at the time of his great work. He was sort of too late to document the traditional life of the first nations of this continent. Or, as one of his present galleries writes: “When Curtis undertook his momentous work on The North American Indian, United States governmental policy had already irrevocably changed the American Indians’ traditional way of life. It had forced their children into Indian Boarding Schools, cut their hair and banned them from speaking their native languages. With few exceptions, our government forbade American Indians’ traditional ceremony, religion and everyday customs.”
It is a parallel story in Scandinavia. Also the Sámi children were forced into boarding schoold, forbidden to talk their native language. And by this time our government and the priest had destroyd their original religion. The photographer Nils Thomasson, in the picture above in a self portrait with is sister Lisa, worked more or less in the same period as Curtis, documenting his own people and their traditons. The festival I visited is showing that the Sámi culture after all is still alive and kicking. The exhibition will be open untill 30th September, but the museum is closed in may and June.
There are more photos from the festival and exhibition on this link from Lopme Naestie. Disputed or not, this was a very interesting and beautiful exhibition. I have always been interested in Native Americans, and I made a post two years ago with my humble photos of Native Americans participating in a movie production in Norway, years ago and definitely staged. I am sure going back to the photography of Edward S. Curtis. And Thomasson.