This study is based on the existent formal studio portraits of Sarah Winnemucca. Formal portraits make purposeful statements of how the subject wanted to be known, and can be as revealing as a personal diary. These photographs, however, must be viewed as a group. Individually they cannot tell us much about the subject or patterns in her life, just as a page in a diary gives no holistic view. For any viable study of photographs there must be a critical number that allows us to form hypothesis and interpretation. That finite number, however, will vary with the subject. In this article I will examine these photographs "as artifacts of culture and the social process surrounding photography as an 'ethnographic' situation revealing of culture" (Ruby 1981:23). These portraits are thus not unrelated, but form a body of visual documents whose study reveals distinctive cultural and social patterns. (Scherer, 178)
About the Author
Joanna Scherer is a Professor Emerita at the Smithsonian Institute. Her research interests are historical photography; Women and photography; North American Indian photography cultural anthropology, and visual anthropology.