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Through the Lens of Charles Fletcher Lummis

Charles Lummis' New Mexico photography
Photograph of a Pueblo couple (probably Isleta or Taos), New Mexico, April 27, 1896, 5 in x 7 in. | Image: Charles F. Lummis; courtesy of the Braun Research Library Collection, Autry Museum of the American West.

Artbound revisits early Los Angeles to explore one of its key and most controversial figures: Charles Fletcher Lummis. As a writer and editor of the L.A. Times, an avid collector and preservationist, an Indian rights activist, and founder of L.A.’s first museum, Lummis’ brilliant and idiosyncratic personality captured the ethos of an era and a region. Watch Artbound's season eight debut episode, "Charles Lummis: Reimagining the American West," premiering Tuesday, May 10 at 9 p.m., or check for rebroadcasts here.

It seems only fitting that Charles Fletcher Lummis, journalist and champion of California culture, would pick up the camera when he did -- adding another tool to his arsenal in order to continue a decades-long journey of preserving the past. 

The avid explorer had already turned to other mediums to secure Southwestern history: Lummis used his writings to document the sentiments of the times; as a collector he amassed priceless Native American artifacts, pieces destined for conservation inside museum boundaries; and he took on the role of ethnomusicologist to archive hundreds of old Mexican folk songs in the form of wax cylinder recordings. Lummis’ work within the photographic discipline permitted him to paint a crisper picture of the communities, landmarks, and environs that made an impact on his world. 

Lummis’ legacy is marked by an extensive creative output, and the thousands of negatives he produced throughout his lifetime certainly stand out among his many undertakings. Lummis rarely stood still, and a bulk of the images that constitute his collection were shot during travels to New Mexico -- the same state where the multi-disciplinarian spent a few years recuperating following a paralysis and related health issues experienced in Los Angeles.

The following photo essay is comprised of pictures from the late 1800s to early 1900s that depict indigenous Pueblo peoples Lummis met along the way. The intimate portraits present a view of multigenerational families, and mundane activities prevalent in village life.

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Charles Lummis' New Mexico photography
Photograph of Isleta Governor Jose Felipe Jojola and his lieutenant governors, Isleta Pueblo, New Mexico, April 14, 1894, 5 in x 7 in. | Image: Charles F. Lummis; courtesy of the Braun Research Library Collection, Autry Museum of the American West.
Charles Lummis' New Mexico photography
Lantern slide, circa late 1800s, 3 1/4 in x 4 in. | Image: ​Charles F. Lummis; courtesy of the Braun Research Library Collection, Autry Museum of the American West.
Charles Lummis' New Mexico photography
(Left) Photograph of three Pueblo Indians, circa late 1800s, 7 in x 5 in. (Right) Photograph of a patol game, Isleta Pueblo, New Mexico, 1890, 7 in x 5 in. | Images: Charles F. Lummis; courtesy of the Braun Research Library Collection, Autry Museum of the American West.
Charles Lummis' New Mexico photography
Photograph of spectators watching races, Isleta Pueblo, New Mexico, April 19, 1896, 5 in x 7 in. | Image: Charles F. Lummis; courtesy of the Braun Research Library Collection, Autry Museum of the American West.
Charles Lummis' New Mexico photography
(Left) Photograph of an Isleta girl winnowing beans, Isleta Pueblo, New Mexico, 1890, cyanotype, 8 in x 5 in. (Right) Photograph of three Isleta boys with bows and arrows, Isleta Pueblo, New Mexico, 1894, cyanotype, 8 in x 5 in. | Images: Charles F. Lummis; courtesy of the Braun Research Library Collection, Autry Museum of the American West.
Charles Lummis' New Mexico photography
Photograph of the Chiriva family, September 21, 1892. Bautista Chiriva (Cacique of Isleta Pueblo) with his wife Lupe and daughter Rafaelita. | Image: Charles F. Lummis; Fred K. Hinchman Collection; courtesy of the Braun Research Library Collection, Autry Museum of the American West.
Charles Lummis' New Mexico photography
(Left) Photograph of an Isleta girl, Isleta Pueblo, New Mexico, April 29, 1894, 7 in x 5 in. (Right) Photograph of Francisco "Quico" Lucero, Isleta Pueblo, New Mexico, April 29, 1894, 7 in x 5 in. | Images: Charles F. Lummis; courtesy of the Braun Research Library Collection, Autry Museum of the American West.
Charles Lummis' New Mexico photography
Photograph of an Isleta woman grinding corn, Isleta Pueblo, New Mexico, late 1800s to early 1900s, 5 in x 7 in. | Image: Charles F. Lummis; Fred K. Hinchman Collection; courtesy of the Braun Research Library Collection, Autry Museum of the American West.
Charles Lummis' New Mexico photography
"A Bit of Isleta," photograph of Isleta Pueblo, New Mexico, February 1894, 8 in x 10 in. | image: Charles F. Lummis; courtesy of the Braun Research Library Collection, Autry Museum of the American West.

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