Ethnographic Pictorialism: Caroline Gurrey’s Hawaiian Types at the Alaska–Yukon–Pacific Exposition

Posted in Articles, Literary/Artistic Criticism, Media Archive, Oceania, United States on 2012-05-20 23:43Z by Steven

Ethnographic Pictorialism: Caroline Gurrey’s Hawaiian Types at the Alaska–Yukon–Pacific Exposition

History of Photography
Volume 36, Issue 2 (May 2012)
pages 172-183
DOI: 10.1080/03087298.2012.654943

Heather Waldroup, Associate Professor of Art History
Appalachian State University, Boone, North Carolina

In 1909, a series of photographs by Honolulu portraitist Caroline Gurrey was exhibited at the Alaska–Yukon–Pacific Exposition (AYPE) in Seattle. The photographs, which combine elements of the Pictorialist style and ethnographic photography, are portraits of young men and women of either Native Hawaiian or mixed-race heritage. The archival record indicates that the photographs were purchased in Honolulu by a member of the Exposition’s administration, and Gurrey’s original intention for them is currently unknown. Nevertheless, the author argues that through their display at the AYPE – an exposition that stressed industry, expansion and commerce as its key themes – Gurrey’s portraits served a significant role in the articulation and visualisation of the Exposition’s central goals and the United States’s desires for settlement of the newly-acquired Territory of Hawaii by bourgeois white agriculturalists.

A portfolio of portraits of Hawaiian teenagers created by Caroline Hawkins Gurrey in 1909 tells a rich story about the intersection of American imperial interests and the persuasive powers of photography in the early twentieth century, Gurrev was already a successful portrait photographer in Honolulu when this portfolio was selected to be exhibited at the Alaska-Yukon-Pacifc Exposition (AYPE) in Seattle during the summer of 1909. She photographed a number of Honolulu’s elite, such as Sanford Dole, using the Pictorialist style, and was known for producing various photographs documenting life in contemporary Hawai‘i. The fifty photographs in the Hawaiian Types’ series—now held at the Smithsonian’s National Anthropological Archives—were chosen and displayed by the AVPE’s administration to illustrate Hawaii’s racial landscape for a very large audience of fairgoer. The photographs’ style which combines tropes of ethnographic photography with the aesthetics of Pictorialism, underscores a key goal ol the AYPE: to combine supposed truth with aesthetic beauty in order to market Hawai‘i to potential settlers of the relatively new American territory…

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‘Beautiful Hybrids’: Caroline Gurrey’s Photographs of Hawai‘i’s Mixed-race Children

Posted in Articles, Literary/Artistic Criticism, Media Archive, Oceania, United States on 2012-05-19 01:50Z by Steven

‘Beautiful Hybrids’: Caroline Gurrey’s Photographs of Hawai‘i’s Mixed-race Children

History of Photography
Volume 36, Issue 2 (May 2012)
pages 184-198
DOI: 10.1080/03087298.2012.654947

Anne Maxwell, Associate Professor of English
University of Melbourne, Australia

In the early years of the twentieth century the Hawaiian-based American photographer Caroline Gurrey produced a much praised set of the photographs of Hawai‘i’s ‘mixed race’ children. Critics have noted that stylistically Gurrey’s photographs belong to the pictorialist school and possibly even to the high art style of the Photo-Seccessionists, however research into her background and life, and the contexts in which these photographs were produced and consumed, suggests that if we want a fuller understanding of both Gurrey’s intentions and these photographs’ historical importance, we should also take note of the part they played in the burgeoning eugenics movement and indigenous Hawaiians’ reactions to American imperialism.

According to Naomi Rosenblum, professional women photographers did not emerge until the 1880s, following a shift in attitudes concerning female education and employment opportunities. When this occurred, there was a veritable explosion of female interest in the medium so that bv the early twentieth century not only were there thousands of amateur women photographers but the numbers taking up photography (or professional and artistic reasons were also large. Historians of photography have investigated the achievements of these early women photographers, with the result that over the last decade a rough consensus as to who were the most important has emerged. Not surprisingly, most of those singled out are from the USA, Great Britain, France and Germany, where the technology and the professional and social networks supporting early photography were most advanced. Missing are the professional women photographers who lived and worked in the smaller western and non-western countries adjacent or peripheral to these larger ones. Although fewer in number, these women warrant historical and critical attention, if only because the limited institutional support available in these places meant they had to labour that much harder to achieve recognition.

One such is the Hawai‘i-based American photographer Caroline Gurrey (whose name before marriage was Haskins), who was active during the first two decades of the twentieth century. Gurrey gained limited critical acclaim while she was alive, but because of her Hawaiian location, and because she was obliged to abandon her artistic ambitions for photojournalism, her name has now virtually sunk into oblivion. Of the few contemporary critics who know of Gurrey’s achievements, most agree that her most important works are the artistic portraits of Hawai‘i’s…

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