The Whale House of Klukwan, Alaska
Winter & Pond Photographers, 1890
EXHIBITION:Barry Herem: Beyond Beyond
“This is one of the greatest ethnographic photographs in the history of photography. In it we see half of the interior of the most famous tribal house in Alaska, if not the entire Northwest Coast. Approximately 50′ x 50′ feet in size, the Whale House seems to have been built around 1850 and depicts two of the four spectacular houseposts which hold the main beams in place, and which flank the gigantic Rainwall Screen. It also highlights the male clansmen who proudly belonged to the house more than a century ago. The number and quality of ceremonial objects clearly set out on view: masks, frontlets, costumes, hats, helmets, baskets, and shamanic paraphernalia are remarkable. Also notable is the enormous, cleverly carved treasure chest which sits in two pieces: the lid–upside down on the left–fit over the body of the box on the right.
This print was made from an original glass plate, circa 1890. It was found in a Seattle antique store many years ago, and is now in my personal collection. I couldn’t be more delighted to not only possess this original plate (two of them) but to also make this work available in large format to others. To me, a remarkable photograph like this provides something “real” of historic Tlingit art and culture as well as of the old Northwest Coast itself.”