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Camera Ojibwe Photographs

"Photographs are not stories, but they can be the starting points of stories."
-Bruce White from "We Are at Home: Pictures of the Ojibwe People"

The Photographs

About Camera Ojibwe

The exhibit, "Camera Ojibwe: Photos of Ojibwe Life" coincides with the release by the Minnesota Historical Society Press of the book "We Are at Home: Pictures of the Ojibwe People," by historian Bruce White.

For more than two decades, White has examined photographs of Ojibwe people taken during the first hundred years of photography. In the process he has uncovered layers of meaning in hundreds of images. The resulting book is a thought-provoking examination of what the images can tell us.

The exhibit "Camera Ojibwe" at the Minnesota History Center includes more than 50 photographs from the book, many of them the original 19th-century daguerreotypes, cartes de visite and cabinet cards from the Society's collections. Artifacts from the Society's collections will be displayed along with the images to enrich the photographs and provide historical and cultural context.

Among the many artifacts on view are beaded bags, baskets, photographic tools and equipment, clothing, and household and harvesting material. Some of the items are of the type used by the photographers as props; some are the actual artifact depicted in a particular photograph in the book. All are examples of the recorded lives, material culture, stereotypes and relationships that White helps readers to see in the photographs.

The exhibit follows the time periods, photographers and themes outlined in the book's chapters: Cradleboards, Leaders, We Are at Home, A Year Goes By, The Circle of Life and The People.

Entering the exhibit, visitors pass a wall of words with tables and chairs encouraging guests to study the Ojibwe language and page through White's book. An interactive feature allows visitors to further explore the Ojibwe language. Many of the photographs are presented on panels with Ojibwe language alongside English translations, providing further cultural context. Framing the panels are vibrant images of Ojibwe textiles. Museum-goers can also experience a photographer's studio and observe the sugaring process through a multi-media presentation showing Ojibwe people harvesting and cooking maple sugar.

The exhibit "Camera Ojibwe" allows visitors to look past stereotypes and discover real-life experiences of the Ojibwe people, their names, their lives, their families, their communities, their histories and their words.