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Glass Negatives and the Effects of Retouching

One of the characteristics of Benedicte Wrensted's work was her retouching of negatives. Rather than presenting her subjects with imperfections, she brushed their faces and hands to erase shadows, blemishes, or signs of aging, thus assuring customer satisfaction.

The practice of retouching was not uncommon in Wrensted's day. But her distinctive style of varnishing in a circular pattern helped establish that a number of unattributed negatives in the collection at the Idaho Museum of Natural History were hers.

Johnny Ballard was born in Wyoming, June 29, 1876, four days after the Battle of the Little Big Horn. When his father Jim Ballard died, Johnny Ballard became the last hereditary leader of the Bannock. He spoke numerous languages, including Sioux, Crow, and Cree. He married Julia Baker in a ceremony at the Mission of Good Shepherd on the Fort Hall Reservation.

Little is known about Charlie Pizoka. His vest is of old Sioux style, possibly from South Dakota.

Frank Randall was born January 1, 1872, to Cayuse Mary (Bannock) and George Randall (Anglo-American). Frank Randall was elected councilman for the Ross Fork District in 1930 and served on the tribes' Advisory Council before the 1934 Indian Reorganization Act. He was outspoken on the issues of alcoholism and better education for Native Americans. He was photographed often throughout his life, by Wrensted and others.

Johnny Ballard and Charlie Pizoka

Johnny Ballard (left; b. 1876 d. 1948) and Charlie Pizoka (right; b.1867 d. 1930) posed for this Wrensted photograph between 1895 and 1912. The image has not been retouched, and shows lines in both men's faces.

The men wear beaded moccasins, vests and leggings, and cloth shirts. Ballard's hair is in long, fur-wrapped braids, a style common among the Bannock and Northern Shoshone. Bone or glass bead chokers, multi-strand necklaces, loom-beaded arm bands, metal-studded belts and metal bracelets were also commonly worn.

Both Ballard and Pizoka have upright, Blackfeet-style feather headdresses. Ballard holds a catlinite trade pipe and a gun while Pizoka holds a feathered staff.

Credit: * National Archives and Records Administration, Still Picture Branch: 75-SEI-99.

Ballard, Pizoka, and Randall

Johnny Ballard (left) and Charlie Pizoka (right) pose again for Wrensted, this time with Frank Randall (seated). The photograph clearly shows retouching. Although the two photos were taken on the same day, Pizoka and Ballard appear much younger in the retouched image.

Frank Randall is wearing leggings with beaded cuffs and a bandolier with hoof tinklers. His earrings are shell "moons." The shell is probably from a West Indian conch, and was a popular trade item throughout the nineteenth century. Because Frank Randall's left hand was disfigured, he always covered it with a piece of fur or blanket. This habit earned him the Indian name "Bear Paw," which translates literally as "Fur on His Hands" or "Holding Fur."

Credit: * National Archives and Records Administration, Still Picture Branch: 75-SEI-66.

Print of glass negative
Glass negative of Ballard, Pizoka, and Randall above. The negative is silvering around the edges and across the body of Johnny Ballard, but the faces shows Wrensted's retouching.

Credit: Scherer Personal Collection.

Print of glass negative of unidentified Indian woman
Glass negative of unidentified Indian woman, showing varnishing in a circular pattern.

Credit: Scherer Personal Collection.

Contrasting Depictions

One of the major differences between Wrensted's portraits of Euro-American and Sho-Ban patrons is the partial versus full-length pose. In her Euro-American portraits, the focus is on the subject's face, showing only the head and shoulders, with the image often presented in an oval frame. These partial body poses are probably photographic emulations of the painted miniature, part of European portraiture tradition.

V. C. Roeder
V. C. Roeder, a surveyor in Pocatello. His close-fitted coat is typical of late 1890s men's style. It was made of broadcloth, with silk braid edging the lapels. His strongly patterned tie is also typical of the period. Vignetting in this case achieves the same effect as an oval mount setting off the portrait.

Credit: Smithsonian Institution, National Anthropological Archives, Eugene O. Leonard Collection, Photo Lot 92-3.

Young woman from Soyuma family
Young woman from the Soyouma family. She is wearing a cloth dress decorated with cowrie shells and metal disks. She also wears a leather belt with metal studs, a choker, bead and metal bracelets, and plain moccasins with beaded leggings.

Credit: * National Archives and Records Administration, Still Picture Branch: 75-SEI-28.

In contrast, Wrensted's photos of Indians were usually full-length, which de-emphasized faces, but documented the elaborate clothing. Was this a preference of the photographer or the subject? It is probable that the Sho-Ban selected the pose, as most patrons of photographic studios made their choices from displayed examples.

Mrs. Estelle Potter Leonard Derr
Mrs. Estelle Potter Leonard Derr, E. O. Leonard's mother. She wears a dress made of silk, probably her best afternoon or dinner dress. The shape of the sleeves indicates a date between 1899 and 1904. This is a standard portrait, head and shoulders, in an oval mount.

Credit: Smithsonian Institution, National Anthropological Archives, Eugene O. Leonard Collection, Photo Lot 92-3.

Frank and Pohene George
Frank and Pohene (b.1861-d.1933) George. Pohene was Lemhi Shoshone and Frank was from the Boise Valley area. He wears a feather headdress that was a family heirloom. As with so many Fort Hall men in this exhibit, his clothing shows both the adoption of Euro-American elements and a continuation of Sho-Ban traditional styles. Pohene wears a beaded buckskin dress. The dip in the front partially follows the shape of an uncut animal hide, and dates the dress to the 1870s. The fully beaded yoke is typical Bannock-Shoshone.

Credit: * National Archives and Records Administration, Still Picture Branch: 75-SEI-13.

Louis William Meyers and wife
Louis William Meyers (b. 1845 d. 1914) and his wife Almira (b. 1848 d. 1934). The house they built still stands at 804 S. Main in Pocatello.

Credit: Scherer Personal Collection.

Helen Wrensted, age 15 months
Helen Wrensted (Sherwood), 1908, age 15 months.

Credit: Scherer Personal Collection.

A Sho-Ban preference for whole images would be consistent with the Native American lack of a facial portraiture tradition. In Indian rock art as well as nineteenth-century Indian ledger art, human figures were full length.

Eddy Drink
Eddy Drink (b. 1893 d. 1957) Shoshone, wearing a cloth shirt, vest and pants, leather cuffs, scarf, reservation hat, and shoes. His clothing typifies that of many Sho-Ban ranching cowboys at the time. His hair decoration, a beaded strip with ermine, plus his beaded armbands and tie slide are the only Indian signifiers.

Credit: * Idaho Museum of Natural History, Ruffner Collection: 253274.

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