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SVA Awards

2008 Winner

2008 John Collier Jr. Award for Still Photography Winner

Joanna Cohan Scherer for A Danish Photographer of Idaho Indians: Benedicte Wrenstead (2006).


Joanna Scherer has worked for many years as a photography expert on North American Indigenous images. Much of her labor contributed to the Handbook of North American Indians, an enormous and invaluable scholarly resource. This book is about a late 19th century woman portrait photographer from Denmark who migrated to the small town of Pocatello Idaho and set up a store- front studio. There she made images of people who lived in the town and its environs, many of whom were Shoshone- Bannock Indians. Scherer’s engaging prose and Wrensted’s luminous and well reproduced photographs appeal to both scholarly and general readers. Students of Native American cultures and documentary photography will appreciate the several ways in which the book makes contributions to both areas. Scholars and practitioners in visual anthropology will learn from the author’s careful study of historical context, micro- analysis of imagery and design, and deft use of the photo elicitation technique in her interviews with the image subjects’ present day descendants.

The author established very close relationships with the people she interviewed. Unlike so many field workers, she kept up these friendships long after her research ended, donating profits from this book to a young student from the Fort Hall Indian reservation. This is a beautiful volume, written with intelligence, sensitivity, and obvious care for the people with whom the author collaborated.


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