An anonymous Civil War soldier compiled a photo album of more than 60 images taken in New Mexico Territory. They were made using the labor-intensive wet-plate colloidion technique and reproduced as salt and albumen prints. Portraits, architectural shots, and several depictions of Navajo people during their captivity at Fort Sumner fill the album, which was annotated by an anonymous writer who identified some but not all of the subjects by name. No context was provided for why a camera captured these military men, Native Americans, Spanish, and Anglo residents, or what their relationship was to the photographers or to the soldier who gathered the photos. Although many of the pictures appear in various historical archives or have been otherwise reproduced, they have never been published all together before now, in Hardship, Greed, and Sorrow: An Officer’s Photo Album of 1866 New Mexico Territory, by Devorah Romanek, published by University of Oklahoma Press.
“Beyond serving as a reminder of people and places, the album depicts associations and alliances that the compiler wished to remember, as well as ties he might not have recognized or that had not yet fully evolved, such as political and business affinities, cultural associations, and links between people and places…” Romanek writes. “Close examination of the images and research into their subjects reveal the social, cultural, and financial connections forced by colonialism and conquest.”
Romanek joins New Mexico History Museum photo archivist Hannah Abelbeck and Jennifer Nez Denetdale, associate professor of American Studies at the University of New Mexico, to discuss Hardship, Greed, and Sorrow: An Officer’s Photo Album of 1866 New Mexico Territory, at 1 p.m. on Saturday, Jan. 25, at New Mexico History Museum (113 Lincoln Ave.). The lecture is free with museum admission; 505-476-5200, nmhistorymuseum.org.