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Exhibit | No, Not Even For a Picture: Re-examining the Native Midwest and Tribes' Relationships to the History of Photography


Wednesday November 2, 2022: 10:00am to Sunday January 1, 2023: 8:00pm


Downtown Library: 3rd Floor Exhibit


From the 1830s to the early 1900s photography went from a specialized and labor-intensive scientific medium to a beloved hobby for many. Photographic styles and practices set visual trends, forwarded stereotypes, maintained myths, and, as always, operated within the ideology of the time. Throughout the same decades, twenty new states joined the Union, including Michigan, Wisconsin, and Minnesota—leading to the assimilation and displacement of countless Native populations. 

Early American photographers—whether employed by the United States government, professional photographic companies, or one of the many individual itinerants crossing the continent—were motivated by curiosity, adventure, and money. Photographers sought images that recorded the people and events of this new frontier and could be sold within an expanding market eager for those stories. 

This exhibit examines the photographic styles and practices that recorded the people, activities, stereotypes, and myths of this important time, focusing on the Anishinaabe people of the Great Lakes region and beyond. 

No, not even for a picture”: Re-examining the Native Midwest and Tribes’ Relationships to the History of Photography points towards the complex balance between violation of privacy and consent and the quest for self-identification felt by Native peoples during this early era of photography.

This online resource and exhibit was created by two University of Michigan students, working remotely during the spring and summer of 2020. All materials represented in this exhibit are from the Richard Pohrt Jr. Collection of Native American Photography at the Clements Library unless otherwise noted.


This exhibit is really well done. Each section has a lot of information about the photos and the social and political climate of the time it was taken. I learned a lot--great timing with Native American heritage month and 'Thanksgiving', this exhibit really gives a lot of food for thought this holiday/day of mourning.