56 E l P a l a c i o
mages selected from the collection of the Photo Archives
at the Palace of the Governors and from contemporary
photographers committed to an ongoing documentation of
the city illuminate the multiple meanings of a place given
to evolving landscapes and various inhabitants. Photography
is the medium to provide a unique visual representation of a
complex and challenging, open-ended environment that con-
tinues to feel Native American, Spanish, Mexican, and other
Euroamerican influences. The exhibition itself, which is divided
into broad and overlapping themes of place, history, and identity,
reveals visual existential experiences that come from shifting
boundaries, differing patterns of cultural behavior, and changing
perspectives of both natural and man-made symbolic surround-
LEFT: Jesse L. Nusbaum (1887–1975), Santa Fe, 1912. Silver gelatin print,
5 x 7 in. Neg. No. 61510.
TOP RIGHT: Postcard/Unknown, Ancient La Fonda Which Stood on Site of Present
Hotel, Santa Fe, New Mexico, n. d. Postcard, 3½ x 5½ in. Neg. No. 13040.
BOTTOM RIGHT: T. Harmon Parkhurst (1883–1952), Staab and Galisteo Buildings,
West San Francisco Street at Galisteo Street, ca. 1933–34. Contemporary archival digital
print from original film negative, 8 x 10in. Neg. No. 51463.
All are courtesy of Photo Archives, Palace of the Governors (MNM/DCA).
New Mexico is a photographer’s paradise: the incandescent quality of the light, dramatic cloud
formations, and expansive landscape have attracted photographers to our state since nearly the
beginning of photographic history. Santa Fe’s adobe architecture, meandering streets, and histori-
cal place in the artistic, literary, and anthropological canons have brought distinguished artists
and thinkers to the “City Different.” From roughly 1850 to the present, photography has been used
effectively to document, create, and promote Santa Fe’s image. The exhibition Through the Lens:
Creating Santa Fe uses that photography to tell the city’s visual story as it celebrates its 400th
anniversary as the oldest capital city in North America.
Creating Santa Fe
ings. While some of the photographs provide a broad perspective
on cultural and social transformations and characteristics, the
exhibition also contains photographs that reveal a more intimate
side of the city’s history.
Memories turn a site into a cultural landscape, and nothing
can spark buried, hidden memories faster than photography.
While Santa Fe is a city that thrives on history—sometimes
superficially, sometimes profoundly, sometimes ponderously, but
always with certain poignancy—it poses a particular challenge
to the photographer. Image-makers have greatly influenced the
perception of Santa Fe as a unique place, even elevating it to
a near-magical international reputation and skewing much of
the world’s “understanding” of what it was and is.
As with all old photographs, Santa Fe on film can evoke a
palpable nostalgia even in those who recognize nothing in them
Memory and imagination are
important components in
developing a sense of place.
By showing how Santa Fe
looked over the past 150
years, images provide a
measure the circular rather
than linear nature of time.
P L A C E
E l P a l a c i o 57
yet feel a sense of longing. At the same time, these same photo-
graphs can dispel the illusion of authenticity offered by today’s
well-meaning but frequently inaccurate imitations of the original
city. Contemporary photographs of the street-level city snapped
by a slick-postcard photographer compared to those taken by
an analytically skilled artist-photographer can look very much
the same. As a place, Santa Fe’s cityscapes are calmly dominant,
hard to manipulate, superficially readable, and always opaque.
Once past the ubiquitous quaintness of adobes and hollyhocks
or bright blue doorways and the gold bloom of chamisa ever-
present in postcards, the lure of Santa Fe’s omnipresent charm
spreads to broader vistas and deeper appreciation.
By showing what Santa Fe has looked like over the past
century and a half, the images in Through the Lens provide a way
to measure the circular rather than linear nature of time spent.
They trace the changes and assess the visual impact of those
who choose to visit or stay. Being a part of any place, whether
for a week or a lifetime, means taking responsibility in some
measure for how its image is projected to the greater world
The Santa Fe mystique is a creation that has been supported
by many differing interests over the years. Roughly one million
visitors from around the world visit annually to experience the
The Santa Fe mystique is
a creation supported by
differing interests. Roughly
a million visitors come
to Santa Fe each year to
experience the landscape,
architecture, and cultural
flavor the make the city
one of the most success-
ful tourist destinations in
I D E N T I T Y
58 E l P a l a c i o
landscape, architecture, and cultural flavor that make Santa Fe
one of the most successful tourist destinations in the United
States. Tourism plays a role in defining cultural identity since
it is a motivating force for emphasizing certain cultural aspects
of a place. Native American and Hispanic cultural identity is,
therefore, unavoidably influenced by the fact that Santa Fe is a
tourist town in which local culture and history have been made
into commodities for sale by the tourism industry.
A curious aspect of early photographs taken of Native
peoples of the region was the staging of scenes and frequent
use of inappropriate props. Many early photographers, includ-
ing John Hillers, Ben Wittick, and, most famously, Edward S.
Curtis, who borrowed costumes from the Smithsonian, posed
their subjects with the same props and backdrops regardless of
their authenticity or correctness. This practice often resulted in
an odd blending of cultures that created an overly romanticized
E l P a l a c i o 59
LEFT: Teresa Neptune (1958–), Santa Fe Rail, Santa Fe, New Mexico, 2004. Ultra-
chrome print, 12 x 18 in. Courtesy of the artist.
ABOVE: J. R. Riddle (dates unknown), Bandstand, Plaza, Santa Fe, ca. 1888. Contem-
porary archival digital print form copy negative, 5 x 7 in. Courtesy of Photo Archives,
Palace of the Governors (MNM/DCA), Neg. No. 76049.
Images by some of the ear-
liest known photographers
in Santa Fe established the
core collections of what
is now the Photo Archives
at the Palace of the
writers who visited New
Mexico in the mid-to-late
1800s helped to shape
the American image of the
region through their inter-
related bodies of work.
H I S T O R Y
60 E l P a l a c i o
and often false view of what traditional Native life would have
looked like in the last fifty years of the nineteenth century. The
portrayal of the dominant Hispanic cultural was equally com-
plex and convoluted.
Photography and Santa Fe tourism remain inextricably
linked as the photographic industry continues to pull people to
Santa Fe for workshops of all kinds. There are more excellent
photography galleries in Santa Fe than in any other city its size,
several world renowned for their commitment to photographic
excellence. Santa Fe’s current photographic community is inte-
grated into the larger Santa Fe community, as were the early Santa
Fe art circles, and its involvement with social issues is equally
committed. The exhibition not only contains photographs made
by one culture viewing another though a lens, but also many that
photographers made of each other over the years. These images
reveal close connections between the photographers, drawn to
Santa Fe by what they saw in the light and a strong sense of kin-
ship. While all of these photographs contribute to the romantic
view of the charms of living in Santa Fe, they also reveal what’s
real. When published and exhibited, such photographs become
part of the photographic history of Santa Fe, part art-world com-
modity, and part visual legacy of place. ■
Memories turn a site into a CULTURAL LANDSCAPE, and nothing can spark buried,
HIDDEN MEMORIES faster than PHOTOGRAPHY.
ABOVE: George Ben Wittick (1845–1903), Loretto Chapel, Santa Fe, New Mexico,
April 1881. Contemporary archival digital print from original glass plate negative,
5 x 8 in. Photo Archives, Palace of the Governors (MNM/DCA), Neg. No.15854.
From essays by Frances Levine, Lucy Lippard, Andrew Leo Lovato, Rina Swentzell,
Krista Elrick, Mary Anne Redding, Siegfried Halus, and David Grant Noble for Through
the Lens: Creating Santa Fe, published by the Museum of New Mexico Press, Santa Fe,
2009. The exhibition Through the Lens: Creating Santa Fe continues at the Palace of the
Governors through October 25, 2009. The project received support from the Scanlan
Family Foundation, New Mexico Council on Photography, Santa Fe Art Foundation,
Museum of New Mexico Foundation, Palace Guard support group, Tourism Cares,
and Palace of the Governors/New Mexico History Museum. ■ For further reading:
Santa Fe: History of an Ancient City, edited by David Grant Noble, School for Advanced
Research Press, Santa Fe, 2008.
E l P a l a c i o 6116 E l P a l a c i o
NEWS & NOTES
The New Mexico History Museum
As part of the new exhibitions Illuminating the Word: The Saint
John’s Bible and Contemplative Landscape, calligraphers from Al-
buquerque and Santa Fe will demonstrate a wide variety of
book crafts in the History Museum’s second-ﬂoor Gathering
Space, through Saturday, April 7.
How do quills, ink and vellum work together? How delicate
is gold leaf? How do you stitch a medieval book? How does
your name look in calligraphic script? Come ﬁnd out.
The calligraphers and bookbinders belong to Escribiente,
Albuquerque’s calligraphy guild, and the Santa Fe Book Arts
Group. They plan to be available from 10 am to noon and 1-3
pm on Saturdays and Sundays, though winter weather may oc-
casionally interrupt those plans. Keep an eye open during the
week, too: Calligraphers sometimes show up and set up shop
for the love of it. Bring your curiosity and your questions. Not
only are the volunteers good at what they do, but they love to
talk about the book arts.
The Museum of International Folk Art
Welcomes the iPod Touch
Visitors are often both delighted and astounded by Alexander
Girard’s one-of-a-kind exhibition Multiple Visions: A Common
Bond. The vastness of the exhibit space, the complexity of the
design, the sheer quantity of objects on display can be over-
powering and—without wall labels—initially confusing. This
was all part of Girard’s design. He did not want text mediating
the relationship between viewer and object. Girard carefully
crafted vignettes of objects that he felt belonged together, mak-
ing folk art accessible, without labels.
But if Girard didn’t like wall text and object labels in his
gallery, how would he have felt about the iPod? We think this
innovator would have loved it. This month Multiple Visions:
A Common Bond enters the iPod era, and you don’t have to
bring your own. iPod Touch devices may be checked out at
no charge from the museum’s front desk, enabling visitors to
embark on a multimedia, self-guided tour. Twenty-two cases
spring to life through audio and video of vibrant festivals from
around the world, colorful dance scenes, and lively music. Art-
ist interviews and video of artists at work are also available.
Like the exhibition, which has no starting point, the elec-
tronically guided voyage through 100 countries can begin any-
where, as visitors select the tours (in English or Spanish) in any
order. There are also three themed tours; Girard’s Vision (20
minutes), Watch the Artist (30 minutes), and Folk Art in Daily
Life (45 minutes).
The Girard multimedia project was developed by Museum
of International Folk Art staff and consultants, Antenna In-
ternational, and funded by the Folk Art Committee/Friends
of Folk Art of the Museum of New Mexico Foundation, The
Bartlett Fund, and the International Folk Art Foundation.
“Windows on History” at the Palace
Building on their shared love for the Palace of the Governors,
the members of Los Compadres have created a long-standing
support group of the museum. Besides overseeing the popular
Downtown Walking Tours, the group raises money, advocates
for Palace causes, and lends a hand at numerous events.
Most of that work is done so quietly that you might be un-
aware of it. But their latest project—“Windows on History”—
will soon appear before your very eyes. Last year, Los Com-
padres adopted the Palace’s aging windows as a fund-raising
cause, setting a goal of $40,000. They sold $5 rafﬂe tickets,
held private dinners with history experts as speakers, and
more. In the end, they raised $54,000. Work has begun on
replacing eight of the most seriously impaired windows. Long-
horn Construction expects to complete the job in time for the
December 9 Christmas at the Palace.
The Aguilar Family, Christening, Ocotlán de Morelos, Oaxaca. Mexico.
Museum of International Folk Art. Photograph by Michel Monteaux.