A Dying West?: Reimagining the Frontier in Frank Matsura's Photography, 1903–1913
Abstract

This essay is a critical analysis of the work of Frank Matsura, a Japanese immigrant photographer whose epistemological framework and, in many ways, visual rhetoric depart from the established canon of frontier photography, and the dominant ideas of the American West it promoted. Matsura's work merits greater scholarly attention, I argue, for the epistemological importance of its alternative vision of late frontier society, particularly with regard to its unique, complex and sensitive representation of Native Americans' continuing survival, adaptation, and resistance. Toward this effort, the essay identifies and appraises the larger discursive patterns that characterize his photography: his "commercial aesthetic" both of developing industries and of unpeopled, "timeless" natural photography; and his locally-specific and historicized visual rhetoric, more critically resistant to dominant commercial and ideological modes of representation.


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