Focus on Alaska Through Frederica de Laguna’s Lenses

Janet R. Klein

Abstract

As a student of Franz Boas, Frederica de Laguna believed in the theory that all descriptions of culture should derive from solid ethnographic data acquired, in part, through extensive fieldwork and observation. Her collection of about 4,000 photographs taken during her 13 field seasons in Alaska reflects that tenet. For de Laguna, photography was a vital and fundamental documentary tool and her skills as a photographer developed alongside her career as an anthropologist.

De Laguna lugged numerous cameras around Alaska, up-grading them periodically. Even after color films became available, the archaeologist turned ethnographer occasionally shot black and white film, believing that color detracted from what she wanted to communicate.

De Laguna felt strongly that her photographs should be available to all people. In keeping with that objective she willed her collection to the Alaska State Library in Juneau where it will be housed forever.

  • Janet R. Klein, Independent Scholar P.O. Box 2386, Homer, Alaska 99603

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