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EYE OF THE BEHOLDER #1 OCTOBER '08: Nothing official

Richard Tighe Harris family image, Juneau, 1885.

 

 

 

 

 

Wendy Withrow, Writer, Singer, UAA employee and Student

Being a specialist in nothing official, I notice the contrasts in this old photograph depicting the march of "civilization."

What immediately stands out is the contrast between the people, dressed so formally, and their surroundings.  They are next to a very normal looking, white-washed building with a shingled roof, nice siding, and a porch.  Although there is a minimalist fence around the building, the yard consists of ragged tree stumps, fallen logs, and wild foliage. 

Behind the people, stark, simple buildings are scattered willy-nilly with no apparent roads joining them.  Tree stumps are everywhere.  This spot was recently a forest.  See what man hath wrought!

The other contrast is between the people themselves.  The man is the only one seated.  He is the patriarch.  His wife and sister-in-law, although Native Alaskans, are dressed in the formal wear of white society, as dictated by people living outside Alaska.  How strange did it feel for these women to wear the clothing of foreigners?  How practical could this clothing have been for any woman living in such a primitive place?

Must we change everything we encounter?

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