Ramsey Library Exhibits

his dog
Little Pocahontas


Mel Blowers Gallery
October 1-31, 2002

UNCA Work Study Coordinator Nancy Hofmann shares photographs and paintings created between 1910 and 1930 by her grandfather Walter Layman.  Born in 1871, Layman attended the Cincinnati Art Academy and the Art Students League in New York City.  Struck early by wanderlust, he traveled through Europe while training with the American Art Association of Paris.  After working as an artist and illustrator in Cincinnati, Ohio and New York City, Layman followed his special interest in documenting the fast-disappearing way of life of Native Americans.  With his canine companion Little Pocahontas, he traveled across the United States photographing members of many different tribes.  He supplemented his income by lecturing at elementary schools, presenting a "spell-binding" series titled This Is Your Country.  His photographs appeared in The National Geographic Magazine.

The Totem Pole Maker and Family - Snohomish Tribe

Walter Layman's letters to his sister describe his fascination with his Native American subjects.  He wrote that when told about the possibility of photographing a regal 75-year-old Skokomish woman, "it made cold chills run up and down my back.  I'll take some desperate chances to get good Indian pictures..."

A product of his culture and of his time, Layman was probably influenced by the Arts and Crafts Movement.  One center of this movement was his home of Cincinnati, Ohio.  From the vantage point of the 21st century, we might feel that the way he posed his Native American subjects demonstrates the cultural stereotyping of his day.  In order to achieve the romanticized images of his imagination, he even added painted artifacts and fantasy environments to his photographs.  Whatever we feel about the "truth" of his portraits, there is no mistaking the sincerity and feeling with which they were created.

Layman wrote that the National Geographic Society did not accept his photographs of Indians because he was an artist rather than an anthropologist.  However, his photographs and paintings show proof of the many tribes remaining in America during his day and time, a record which will be of continuing anthropological interest for future generations.

Apaches, Coming and Going

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