Emergence From The Shadows

Emergence from the Shadow: First Peoples’ Photographic Perspectives was presented from 22 October 1999 until 6 January 2002 in the art gallery of the First Peoples Hall of the Canadian Museum of Civilization.

Popular culture — from cigar store icons to television and the Hollywood western — has played a major role in creating and ingraining stereotypical images of the North American Indian. Emerging from the shadow cast by this popularized notion of Indian life, this exhibition’s two perspectives on First Peoples explore themes of community and continuity, and how the past influences the present in both cultural and artistic terms.

The first perspective — Through the Anthropologist’s Camera — examines the work of four anthropologists who studied First Peoples for the Geological Survey of Canada (now the Canadian Museum of Civilization) during the early twentieth century. Culled from thousands of fieldwork photographs in the Canadian Museum of Civilization’s archives, this astonishing record represents a new genre called “fieldwork portraiture”. Demonstrating the control First Peoples often exerted over the photographic process, these images bear witness to the sitters’ vanishing world — left as a gift to future generations.

The second facet of the exhibition — Perspectives from the Urban Frontier — showcases the work of six contemporary First Peoples artists. Their various photo-based works speak to self-determination, to the reality of today’s urban First Peoples, and to the deep bond that exists between modern First Peoples and their ancestors.

Jeffrey M. Thomas, guest curator
Onondaga First Nation

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