A Russian American Photographer in Tlingit Country: Vincent Soboleff in Alaska
Sergei Kan,
288 pages, hardcover:
$39.95,
University of Oklahoma Press, 2013

In A Russian American Photographer in Tlingit Country: Vincent Soboleff in Alaska, ethnologist Sergei Kan brings 137 century-old images to light. Taken between 1890 and 1920 by amateur photographer Vincent Soboleff, they portray Tlingit natives living and working alongside Russian Americans in the remote coastal Alaskan town of Killisnoo. The photographs depict daily life in the multiethnic town and its fish-to-fertilizer factory, at a time when Tlingits began to blend commercial economic pursuits with their subsistence traditions of hunting, fishing and berry picking. A mustachioed Tlingit in Western attire sells carved totems to tourists; another stands outside the Russian Orthodox Church, wearing a salmon headdress and wrapped in a fringed blanket. A Tlingit "dance house" is flanked by a totem pole on one side, a flagpole on the other – a seeming allegory for the sociocultural transformation captured by Soboleff's camera.