Santa Fe’s Early Photographers

A photographic studio in Santa Fe during the later part of the 19th century.

Images of Santa Fe’s people and timeless terrain captured on film help to tells its history. During the latter part of the 19th century some of the early photographers were just passing through on their way west. While others came to work and live in Santa Fe. Many had professions in the arts, archaeology, and anthropology; others were soldiers. The lives of these people were as diverse as the subjects they photographed. What they all had in common was bravado and a zest for adventure.

Go West Young Man

It was an exciting time out West, far from the center of this relatively new industry in New York and Europe. These photographers were learning as they went along. Their journey was not without hardship. Many of them lacked equipment and supplies. Not to mention the length of time it took to get supplies over the Santa Fe Trail. If the supplies arrived at all. On occasion the supplies disappeared thanks to marauding Indians and bandits on route to Santa Fe. It was also difficult to develop glass negatives in tents on the open range. Then there was the resistance that they encountered from the Native Americans, whom they desperately wanted to capture on film. But these photographers endured knowing that they were at the right place at the right time documenting the frontier of civilization.

Capturing History

Later, with the advent of the railroad in 1880, followed by two world wars, a hodgepodge of diversity came to town. By 1950 Santa Fe’s reputation as an art colony, cultural haven, and military checkpoint for the atomic age grew exponentially. Each decade of film, when taken as a whole, created a kaleidoscope of history that defines the world-renowned community in the high-desert mountains of the Southwest. Today, in the digital age, the faces and places continue to captivate the imagination of the photographic eye.

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