Artist's Biography - Roland Reed
( 1864 - )
Roland Reed was born in 1864 in the Fox River Valley of Wisconsin. His parents were farm people of a Scottish ancestry. He grew up in a log cabin near the old Indian trail that led from Lake Poygan to Fond du Lac, and the hero of his boyhood days was an Indian named Thundercloud - the chief of a band of Menominies camped on the opposite side of the lake.
Roland Reed began his photographic work after the turn of the 20th Century and in the spirit and style of Edward Curtis. Reed was apprenticed as a young adult to a photographic studio in Havre, Montana. After a long period of local work, Reed went north to capture the Alaska Gold Rush in 1897. His serious work of photographing Native American Indians began in 1907. In 1913 Reed received a commission to produce life size photographs of the Blackfoot Indians for the 1915 Panama-California Exposition to be held in San Diego. He bought a studio in San Diego to produce the prints he had created.
Roland Reed's exhibition opening became an immediate triumph. A high volume of orders came in that took months to complete. While in Montana completing his photographs, he met the photographer and print maker, Lou Bigelow, early in her long career and asked her to assist him in the print making endeavor to be done in San Diego.
Not being a print maker, Reed bored of the work and returned to Montana. He sold his studio to Bigelow, who continued her work in the field for several decades.
Reed worked with a heavy, large format, 11 x 14 camera. He worked among the Woodland Indians (Ojibway), Plains Indians (Blackfoot, Cheyenne and Flathead), and the Southwest Indians (Navajo and Hopi). Like others, he was heavily influenced by the work of Edward Curtis. Reed was a perfectionist who strove for the expression of timeless beauty and drama in his portraits of Blackfoot and Piegan Indians. He would spend hours setting up a single shot and totally believed in the necessity of the clear northern Montana light. His genuine respect for the Native American must have come through clearly to his subjects who would patiently spend the hours he needed to finish his work. He used many dark room techniques like cropping, retouching, and soft focus to gain his signature effects of romanticism and reality.
In somewhat the same vein as Curtis, Reed never completed the publication of his Indian images as he imagined it. His plates remained in the hands of relatives for many years before they received the public attention they deserved.
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