We seem to be in a golden age of Alaska history. A number of books illuminating aspects of the state’s past have crossed my desk in the past year or so. The most recent volume to come to my attention is “A Russian American Photographer in Tlingit Country: Vincent Soboleff in Alaska” (University of Oklahoma Press) by Sergei A. Kan, an anthropologist associated with Dartmouth College in New Hampshire. It might be better to call Kan the editor since the main content, we understand, is the photos Soboleff took of daily life and special events in the vicinity of his home village Killisnoo and other Southeast towns and cities.
Son of the town’s Russian Orthodox priest, Soboleff, a "creole," was fluent in the Tlingit language and an integral part of the little community, which was something of a happening place at the turn of the 20th century, what with fishing, tourism, mining and other business interests transforming the area. A New York Times writer notes that his photos, particularly of his fellow villagers, are “significantly different from others of the period,” unposed and more intimate. They are also impressively clear and well-lit; the photographer knew his craft. Most were taken over the course of about 20 years starting in the late 1890s.
We have yet to get a copy of the book here, but images in the New York Times review make me eager to see more. Here's the link: http://lens.blogs.nytimes.com/