Josephine A. Kemp
Kemp, Mrs. Edward A. "Photographing in the Hopi Land," Camera Craft 11, no. 6 (December 1905), pp. 247-255.
Palmquist, Peter E.. "Women Photographers and the American Indian," in An Idaho Photographer ln Focus. (Pocatello, Idaho: Idaho State University, 1993), pp. 121-149.
Palmquist, Peter E.. Shadowcatchers: A Directory of Women ln California Photography Before 1901. Arcata, California: Published by the author, 1990.
Palmquist, Peter E. (editor). Camera Fiends & Kodak Girls: Writings by and About Women Photographers 1840-1930. New York: Midmarch Arts Press, 1989.
Photographing in the Hopi Land
by Mrs. Edward H. Kemp, 1905
The question, Of what shall my photographic outfit consist? will probably be the first one asked by the earnest worker in photography about to take a trip into that wonderful and interesting country, Northeastern Arizona, the land of mesas. The first thing to provide for when arranging the outfit for this trip should be protection from dust. The apparatus must be carefully enclosed in well made, tight-fitting leather cases; sole leather is preferable, because of its rain-proof qualities. A tripod is not an absolute necessity, but will be found occasionally advantageous when using the ray filter. Personally, I find very little use for the ray filter in this region as the clouds have a peculiar faculty of photographing reasonably well with the landscape. By judicious development, or in other words restraining the sky portion with bromide while allowing the foreground to develop fully, a perfect printing negative will result.
The next question to be considered is the size of the camera. In a region where every pound of supplies, both for the horses and one's self, has to be freighted in, any increase in the weight of apparatus means added inconvenience. For this reason, I would recommend that nothing larger than a 4x5 be taken. Coming to the camera itself, do not take one of the folding pattern, let it be of the box type with the lens well protected by a flap. Moreover a box camera is far quicker in manipulation and much less conspicuous in action and these are important features in making life studies among the Indians. The high grade lens is not a necessity; the light in this locality being so intensely actinic that a good rectilinear lens will answer almost every requirement. In most cases for general view work, I stop down to U.S. 32 and set the shutter at one-twenty-fifth of a second; the shutter being a regular Unicum type. Should the visit be made during the snake dance an anastigmat would be an advantage as the dance takes place just before sunset and in some villages in a shaded courtyard. For this particular ceremony a camera of the reflex type is best suited. The difficulty
of focusing at short range with wide open lens makes it almost impossible to use an ordinary camera depending upon the focusing scale.
For your own peace of mind, always use films, and daylight loading ones at that. They are better protected from the dust, are much lighter and you are not limited to any definite amount of work in a certain day; furthermore, you will not have to spend your evenings loading plate-holders after a hard day's work. I can perhaps best entertain and interest my readers by giving them a short account of my last trip across the desert of Arizona and into the mesa country of the Hopi Indian Pueblos, to witness their weird and fascinating ceremony, the snake dance. The trip was a most enjoyable one and of such intense interest that it will be remembered through my life time. The most interesting, most happy, gentle, sentimental, and most picturesque people on this continent are these Hopi Indians who have had the same habits and customs longer than history records; who have continuously inhabited the oldest stone built houses on the American continent, and who are today the last tribe of Indians left practically untouched by civilization.
We commenced our trip by leaving San Francisco and Point Richmond on the evening of August 13th, with thirteen pieces of baggage, and the new moon over our left shoulder. To these unlucky sequences of evil omens, we gave no heed. A little over half an hour and we were comfortably settled in the Santa Fe sleeper, ready for the journey. Early the next day, we climbed the Tehachapi Pass, which is conceded to be one of the most wonderful feats of railroad engineering in the world. In one place we made a perfect circle, passing completely over our own previous course. Looking out of the window, we could see the track we had just left, fifty feet below and directly beneath us. As we climbed higher and higher, a most magnificent panorama of mountain and valley was spread before us. Over the summit and we made good time; leaving the green foliage we entered the Mojave desert with its wonderful growth of cacti, yucca and sage brush. The flowering yucca stands like a guardian over the weaker members of its tribe; tipped with its delicately tinted blossoms, it was one of the most striking pictures of the desert flora. Arriving at Needles at sundown, we were met by Mojave Indians with their beautiful bead work and fascinating pottery which they silently offered for sale. These Indians are of magnificent physique, averaging over six feet in height. The women are much shorter and wear shawls made from four bright colored bandanna handkerchiefs. The brighter the colors, the more stylish the costume from their point of view. Eight miles down the river, we crossed the Colorado on a fine steel bridge leaving California behind and as we did so we saw the sharp, spike-like forms of the Needle mountains. About noon we passed through a beautiful pine-timbered country surrounding the San Francisco mountains, a locality that has become a most popular resort for campers and hunters. Across another stretch of desert and we arrived at Winslow, the end of our trip by rail, at 8 o'clock. Tourists from the East could leave the Santa Fe at Holbrook and make the circle of the six other villages before arriving at Oraibi, if they wish.
We left by team the next morning and after a few hours driving across a sandy plain and through a pleasant grove of cottonwood trees, we arrived at the first crossing of the Little Colorado and followed the river along its northern banks with the desert stretching out at our right. Later in the day, we were overtaken by a violent rain storm which compelled us to spend the night in the wagon vainly endeavoring to obtain some sleep. Morning broke at last and with it the storm. We made a good breakfast, dried our clothes and again started on our journey. The trip across the desert is one of intense interest and the strange weird stillness has a charm of its own. Off to our left were the great landmarks of the desert traveler, the San Francisco mountains with their ever-changing pastel coloring, and on our right their many fantastically-shaped buttes formed a never-ending panorama. Overhead billowed an unceasingly changing canopy of gorgeous clouds such as can be seen nowhere else but in Arizona. Stopping for lunch, we met our first Navajo Indian. Mr. Navajo is always on the lookout for a free meal, and in his mind, white people and free meals go together. I brought out my camera and the Navajo immediately jumped to the ground and started to unsaddle his pony. We were quite surprised and watched with interest his proceedings. He first unrolled the bundle that was strapped behind his saddle and taking from it a very bright and handsome blanket he began to adorn his pony, fixing another handsome blanket in a roll on the back of his saddle. He then dressed himself in a pair of light-colored corduroy trousers, jumped on his pony and posed for his picture. Mr. Navajo was not going to have his photograph taken in his every day clothes; not if he knew it.
Travelling north, we left our rugged buttes and the scenery changed. In the distance we saw the flat-topped mesas which are characteristic of this region and on the highest and most inaccessible of which we were to find our Hopi villages. Later in the afternoon, we arrived at the Jeditto Wash, which, on account of the recent rain was rushing very swiftly between its walls, thick and heavy with mud. We had some difficulty in crossing, the wagon being almost overturned, but arriving safely on the opposite bank we decided to camp there until the next morning. With a large camp fire and good supper, we were in a condition to appreciate the wonderful evening calm and glow of the desert; then to bed to enjoy a well-earned rest beneath the wonderful starry sky, a sensation never to be forgotten.
Morning came and we started northward and were soon well into the Navajo Reservation which almost surrounds the Hopi territory. The characteristic Navajo hogans or houses are scattered here and there at more frequent intervals than formerly. We stopped at several of these hogans and photographed many interesting groups; a little candy and a little coaxing made this very easy. Afternoon found us on the wrong side of the stream so we decided to make camp and reserve the crossing until the following morning. Up stream about a mile we found a suitable ford, and crossing we headed straight for Moki; rounding the rocky headlands we descended directly into the Oraibi Wash which leads to the Hopi village of that name. We were still fifteen miles from the village, out in the cornfields of the Hopi. Cornfields fifteen miles from his home are nothing to the Hopi Indian. Studded along the edge of these fields were here and there a brush shelter under which a Moki sat watching, guarding his crop. We scanned the distant mesa for the first glimpse of a village but owing to the protective mimicry of its coloring it looks so like part of the rock on which it is located that it is practically indistinguishable at any great distance. Being the first arrivals for the snake dance ceremony, we took the pick of the houses and selected a mansion on "Nob Hill," as we called the sandheap on which it is situated, making a choice which future events proved to be fortunate. Feeling well rested the next morning we made our first visit to the Oraibi, the oldest, most primitive and most conservative town of the Hopi Indians.
The first part of the climb is through a mile of loose sand and then up and up the hand and foot trail to where we are greeted with the first view of the village, so different from anything else in the world. Imagine seven irregular streets with rows of houses rising three stories high, the upper stories reached from the outside by means of ladders, with here and there a courtyard or public square, and you have a good idea of the village. As the news spread that the Pahanas, as they call the white people, had arrived, the little children came peeping at us from around corners and the grown-up part of the population commenced to gather on the housetops. They are prompted both by curiosity and their mental association of Pahana and candy, old and young being alike, anxious to sample the sweets we are expected to possess.
The visitor cannot fail to be impressed by the happiness and contentment which these people enjoy. Their home life is ideal. True, they have no street cars; the men walking from five to twenty miles to attend their crops, nearly always returning with a heavy load of wood or provisions. There are no stationary wash tubs for the women to use but the water is carried from a spring in large earthen bottles or oyoas, supported on their backs by a shawl passed over the forehead. The little ones are early taught to assist and they may often be seen struggling along with a burden half as large as themselves. The children are always a great source of interest to the visitor. At first shy, a little candy wins their confidence and one is continually followed by a jolly, rollicking crowd. They are greatly interested in the camera but sometimes scramble away when it is pointed in their direction. Up and down the narrow streets we strolled, the eye meeting something new and interesting at every turn. It is indeed hard to realize that so primitive a people exist in this twentieth century of ours.
The interior of a Hopi residence is always interesting. Just ahead of us on the ladder was one of their dogs, which walk up and down ladders with as much ease as their masters, but at the top we are greeted with the usual welcome, an invitation to enter and a rug is placed for us to be seated upon. At the further corner of the room a young girl is working at the mealy stone, rubbing down the corn to make bread. This is an almost continuous process in order that the supply of peke bread may be sufficient. In another corner is a charcoal fire underneath a flat stone on which the bread is baked.
Spending an intensely interesting day we returned to our house on the hill below the mesa. As we sat outside the door enjoying the evening calm, the low, distant chanting of the Hopi song is wafted downward to our ears from the village far above. With it comes the musical voice of the crier announcing the events of the morrow.
The next morning we decided to drive over to Michongovi, another village fifteen miles to the eastward, to witness the observance of the Flute ceremony. Down across the sandy wash and then up to the top of the mesa on which this village is situated, we find it located at the farther edge in a most elevated and commanding position. A little to the right, separated only by a narrow gap, we see Shipaulivi, the loftiest of the Hopi towns. From its highest house one can command an unobstructed view of the other six villages.
The spring around which the Flute ceremony takes place is situated in the valley some four hundred feet below the village. There, sitting in silent watchfulness, was a guard, seeing that no profane feet entered the circle of sacred meal sprinkled around to keep the evil spirit from the water. Here and there were placed prayer sticks or baho, the prayer being a piece of down. The priests begin to arrive and form a circle around the chief or thunder god. They join in smoking the sacred pipe amid silent meditation and an occasional blowing of smoke into a basket of bahos or prayer sticks, which is passed around. This preparatory ceremony taking place on a terrace above, they descend and sit in a circle with their feet in the water of the spring. Here they chant a low, droning melody accompanied by the note of reed flutes played by priests standing in the background. Each priest in turn scatters a little sacred meal in the water and later the oldest of their number collects the bahos, dives into the chilling water and places them in the crevices of the rocks below, there to remain for another year, to keep away evil spirits and insure a generous supply of the fluid for that period. A procession follows, made interesting by the fantastic regalia and the weird music of those taking part. We returned again to our house well pleased with the day's interesting experience.
Early the next morning the Corn race took place. We had to rise at 4 o'clock in order to reach the top of the mesa by daybreak. The sight was one of absorbing interest. The summit of the mesa was thronged with Indians watching for the race to begin. The color effects on the plain below and in the sky above were sublime, the picturesque groups of Indians wrapped in their bright colored blankets and silhouetted against the sky, formed a picture never to be forgotten. The race over, we witnessed one of the liveliest scenes enacted in Hopi land. The winner of the last race runs to his cornfield to sprinkle it with the sacred meal. The other participants are each handed a cornstalk on reaching the top of the mesa. Lying in wait for them are all the young women of the village, who endeavor to wrest their cornstalks from them. The girl who secures the trophy from one of the men, wins him for her husband. It can be easily imagined that effort and resistance is not always as sincere as it might be and the right lass is pretty sure to secure the desired cornstalk. The laughter which accompanies the success of the girls is infectious, so animated and enthusiastic does the scene become.
This is also the day for the snake dance, the cumulative scene, the objective point of our visit. Towards evening we all gather in the square in which the dance takes place. A "photographer's row" is provided for the camera users and it is well populated. We will omit a long and tedious description of the ceremony, simply explaining that it is an invocation for rain and that the snakes are used as a means of communication between the living and the dead, carrying the prayers of the former down into the underworld where dwell the spirits of the departed. In the center of the plaza stands the "kisi" or tent of boughs containing some fifty snakes, many of them rattlers, guarded by the snake priest who hands them out to the dancers. The intense dramatic action, peculiar dirge-like chanting, the fascinating weirdness of the scene, all make it a picture never to be forgotten. At a word of command the priests gather the snakes again and run in all directions with them, setting them free to carry their message to the departed. After disposing of their regalia the aftermath of the weird ceremony is enacted. All the priests assemble at the edge of a mesa and drink copiously of a strong emetic; the resultant scene is indescribable and one does not question its being emblematic of purification. The priests are certainly left in a condition to enjoy the fiesta which follows.
A Buffalo dance was arranged for the next day. This story being already too long I will pass this over by simply saying that it contrasted strongly with the last ceremony, inasmuch as it consisted of pure fun and merrymaking. A motley assortment of ridiculous costumes, exhilarating singing, and unrestrained merriment characterize this dance which is repeated at intervals throughout the day. With the ending of the Buffalo dance the fun ceases and the village once more resumes its wonted monotony.
A few more days were spent amongst the friendly Hopis but not long enough to enjoy a wedding ceremony that was in preparation. At Keams Canyon we witnessed an interesting Navajo race and the same day a chicken-pulling contest that was most exciting. At night a large camp fire was made the center of a dance and with tom-tom and rattles the excitement was great. The rhythm and motion became infectious and we found ourselves joining arms with the Indians. No stage setting could be made half so spectacular, with the high walls of the canyon about us and with other camp fires above and below,Ítruly a scene to inspire a Dante.
Our homeward journey was begun the next morning, out of the mesa country across the plain with its mirages and through the painted desert, its coloring of the most brilliant shades of reds and greens. We again found the Santa Fe railroad at Winslow. Changing trains at Williams, we went to the head of Bright Angel trail where the Santa Fe has a magnificent hotel, El Tovar, erected at a cost of $50,000. Here we had a view of that grandest wonder of the western world, the Grand Canyon of the Colorado in Arizona. To remember the Little Colorado as we had crossed it with its mud banks and then to see it rushing on its way between massive walls of variegated sandstone and granite, a chasm of some four thousand feet into the very vitals of the earth, was indeed an inspiring comparison. Hundreds of pictures of the Grand Canyon have come to my notice, but none of them can convey to the mind the slightest impression of the immensity, the grandeur and the sublimity of the scene. The view from the rim is most inspiring, and it is at this point that I will leave my readers, trusting that they themselves may be tempted to take this never-to-be-forgotten trip.quoted from Camera Craft 11 (December 1905), pp. 247-255.
Women Photographers and the American Indian
compiled by Peter E. Palmquist
Camera Fiends & Kodak Girls: Writings by and About Women Photographers1840-1930
New York: Midmarch Arts Press, 1989.