Images of Early America: Santa Fe

Editor – Ana Pacheco

The history of Santa Fe is encapsulated in imagery. Eons ago, remnants of unearthed Native American artifacts shed light on its first inhabitants. By the 17th century, Spanish settlers were capturing everyday life with brushstrokes on canvas. In the 1850s, the epic of this ancient land was brought to life through the camera’s lens. These early images, which tell the story of the convergence of humanity, are as varied as the people themselves. They arrived at different times on the four major arteries that connect in the heart of the city: the Camino Real (from Mexico City), the Santa Fe Trail (from Independence, Missouri), the Old Spanish Trail (from Los Angeles), and the Mother Road, Route 66, which began in Chicago.

Ana Pacheco’s family settled in Santa Fe during the 17th century. As the city historian of her hometown, she has woven together the threads of this narrative through the work of its early photographers. The vast photograph collection at the Palace of the Governors at the New Mexico History Museum has preserved the essence of the people, places, and progress that continues to define the “City Different.”

The Images of America series celebrates the history of neighborhoods, towns, and cities across the country. Using archival photographs, each title presents the distinctive stories from the past that shape the character of the community today. Arcadia is proud to play a part in the preservation of local heritage, making history available to all.

Pages: 127


Since the mid-19th century, photographers have captured the essence of Santa Fe through the camera lens. Many of these visionary pioneers were just passing through while documenting the great expanse of the west. Others found the open space and the ever-changing sunlight of this ancient city captivating, decided to make it their calling in life and in the process their home.

The idea for this book, documenting the early history of Santa Fe through images, came from the photographers themselves. While doing research on a gamut of subjects I kept running across many of the same photographers over and over again. They had witnessed history, and I wanted to know more about them. The last chapter in this book is devoted to their lives, at least the ones where I could find information. Some of the early photographers were just passing through, leaving images but not a paper trail. In some instances I was able to connect the dots, discovering friendships and professional alliances that explained their portfolio of work. I was surprised that some left families and friends behind to pursue their calling as a photographer. Some scraped by doing odd jobs to be able to do the work they loved. And I was fascinated to learn of some of the unusual ways they died.

The photographs represented in this book are but a small fraction of their work. Virtually all of these photographers have a huge collection of photographs documenting Native Americans from the surrounding Pueblos and the region. Since I couldn’t do justice in one book to all of their work, it is my hope to eventually write about the Native American life that they so richly documented.

To my dismay, there were no collections of women photographers to speak of at the photograph archives. The time period I chose was an era when women were not represented in many fields. The only woman photographer featured in this book is Laura Gilpin. To my bewilderment, none of the photographs that she took in a career that spanned more than 60 years were available at the archives. Although she lived in Santa Fe for more than 50 years, and died here in 1979, her photograph collection is at the Amon Carter Museum in Dallas.