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Mary Richards (Lipan), Tonkawa

Nineteenth-century photographers and ethnologists saw the camera as a tool for recording the physiognomy and costumes of Native Americans (the so-called “vanishing race”) for both scientific and commercial purposes. Rinehart, a professional portrait photographer from Omaha, documented over five hundred members of thirty-five tribes attending the Indian Congress at the Trans-Mississippi and International Exposition in 1898. The commission resulted in what has been called “one of the best photographic documentations of Indian leaders at the turn of the century.” Despite the formality of their studio poses, Rinehart’s portraits capture a dignity, humanity, and even melancholy in his subjects. The beauty of these images and their wide distribution may have influenced a shift in the depiction of Indians as ethnographic “specimens,” to a more sensitive portrayal of them as individuals.

Sidney and Lois Eskenazi Museum of Art’s collection includes two additional portraits from this series (Little Cliff, Eskenazi Museum of Art 78.72.7 and Louison, Flatheads, Eskenazi Museum of Art 78.72.9).

Frank A. Rinehart
American, 1861–1928
Mary Richards (Lipan), Tonkawa
1898
Platinum print
Image: 9 x 7 ½ in. (23.0 x 19.1 cm); sheet: 9 5/16 x 7 5/16 in. (23.7 x 18.6 cm)
Sidney and Lois Eskenazi Museum of Art, 78.72.8