Thunderbird Foundation for the Arts

John Jack Hillers: "The People" - An Exhibition


A Photographic History of the Southern Paiute Indians

The book "The" People is now available

along with the "Beauty of the Southwest: An Artistic Journey by Robert Goldman" in May 2020.


A rare collection of 116 albumen photographs taken between 1872-1875 continues through 2020 at the Maynard Dixon Legacy Museum in Mt. Carmel, Utah. This extraordinary collection of images by John "Jack" Hillers was donated to the Thunderbird Foundation in 1998. Hillers produced a number of sets to be used by John Wesley Powell to lobby Congress for more money for his expeditions. This is the only known collection that is intact with all 116 images. The “why” for the book is that while both Powell and Hillers have been celebrated, the Indians who contributed to their successes have been largely unknown and unrecognized. They are the missing piece of the story of Powell’s expeditions.

E. O. Beaman’s photography equipment, weighing roughly a thousand pounds, included a large camera, portable dark room, tripods and large, very fragile glass plates used to make photo negatives with the colodium wet-plate method. 

The oarsman, Jack Hillers, recently discharged from the U.S. Army as a sergeant, was interested in Beaman’s work and soon acted as his unofficial assistant. Beaman’s historic photographs were to become the first images ever taken of the Green and upper Colorado River. However, Beaman left the survey in January 1872, after a dispute with Powell in their winter camp in Kanab, Utah, and Powell put Hillers in charge of photography for the remainder of the expedition. 

After assuring the local Paiutes that it could do them no harm, they gave his camera the Indian name of “Myself in the Water,” symbolic of Hillers' ability to capture their own reflections in the water, in his magic wooden box. 

A long association of mutual trust was established between Hillers, John Wesley Powell, and the local Paiute tribe. Most of the albumen photographs in the Utah Tribes Exhibit are the result.


Catalog written by Nelson B. Wadsworth Available Here



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