Adam Clark Vroman


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Photographer and collector. On eight trips to Arizona and New Mexico between 1895 and 1904, he created his best-known works, images of Hopi and Zuni Indians, their villages, and their landscape. He also photographed throughout California, with special attention to Spanish colonial architecture, and in the Midwest. Born in La Salle, Illinois, as a young man Vroman lived in Rockford, where for seventeen years he worked for the railroad. In 1894 he opened a bookstore (still in business) in Pasadena, California. Vroman counted history and archeology among his wide-ranging interests. A fastidious photographer, he nearly always used a view camera to make glass-plate negatives, which he printed on platinum paper. Vroman's carefully crafted compositions provide a wealth of visual information about individual Indians, their lifestyles, ceremonies, and dwellings. He numbered among the most consistently respectful and direct of the photographers drawn to tribal subjects during a period when such material was widely popular. He did not idealize his subjects into mythic icons, nor did he historicize them by excluding traces of the present from his images. Rather, he individualized them as personalities. Some of his photographs even acknowledge the presence of outsiders, including tourists, who were by this time regularly encountered on tribal lands. In 1909 Vroman traveled to Japan and elsewhere in Asia. He took along a small camera, but his photographs from this trip do not match the quality of his earlier work. In any event, his main purpose was to acquire Asian art, extending his discriminating achievements in collecting American Indian art and books about the Southwest. He died in Altadena, not far from Pasadena, while visiting a friend.

Subjects: Art.

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