Zig Jackson – An Indian On America’s View of Indians

THE DAILY PIC: At the Portland Art Museum, Jackson turns the tables on Whites.

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THE DAILY PIC (#1515): The title of this photo is Indian Photographing Tourist Photographing Indians, Crow Fair, Montana, and it was taken by the American Indian photographer Zig Jackson in 1991. I saw it on a recent trip to the Portland Art Museum in Oregon, in an important show called “Contemporary Native Photographers and the Edward Curtis Legacy.”

I love the way Jackson has turned the tables on the snapshooter in his photo, making her objectification and exoticization of American Indians into the subject of objectification and exoticization of his own. At the moment that the tourist is treating the Indians like creatures in a zoo, Jackson is giving the tourist the same treatment.

It did cross my mind, however, that Jackson’s table-turning may be doomed to failure. There’s a risk that the artist himself, like all artists, may also be treated as an exotic object by the haut-bourgeois artworldians who visit the museum. (Most museumgoers everywhere are rich in either dollars or status.) I could imagine pairing Jackson’s images with Tina Barney’s photos of America’s bluebloods, who are themselves presented as exotic objects, and with Louise Lawler’s images of works of art as exotic objects in such bluebloods’ homes.

Come to think of it, is most visual culture, whatever its subject, really about the exotic object that is “other” than us? (Image courtesy the artist)

For a full survey of past Daily Pics visit blakegopnik.com/archive.


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