History Project; The Library of Congress 2008
There is no singular history, no fixed procession of artifacts and events. Facts are filtered through individual and collective narratives, colored by official interpretations, and popular beliefs. Contemporary identities inform perceptions of the past. Popular culture influences interpretations of the indigenous.
The inexpert audience is likely to accept the appearance of authenticity without corroboration. Exploration and interrogation are the domain of experts, the explorer. To accept the image of land surveyed is the domain of the tourist. It is safe.
Manipulated photographs have become normative however, there is no expectation of alteration to historic imagery. The images used in the History Project can all be located via their catalogue number within the Library of Congress database.
There is a false sense of authenticity to the historic image. These images were however heavily mediated, the stoic, vanishing, Native American. Many of the events surrounding these images and the images themselves was staged. What does more mediation mean?
The History Project was initially conceived for and exhibited at the 17th Annual Festival de la Familia in Sacramento, CA. The exhibition included the gratis distribution of postcards containing both the manipulated image and the catalogue number necessary to locate the original. Manipulation was not emphasized in the image descriptions, although it was clearly stated in the artist’s statement.
Over a thousand postcards were distributed with most recipients initially accepting the images as genuine, women frequently commented on how “pretty” the two girls appear. It has since been observed that within a more traditional gallery context the manipulation is treated as being more overt, although individuals may be only slightly more likely to perceive it without prior knowledge.