Tuesday, 11 November 2008

Verrill from Spirit Capture

Notes regarding A. Hyatt Verrill excerpted from Spirit Capture, a NMAI publication.

Heye also hired independent individuals from a variety of backgrounds, such as artist A. Hyatt Verrill, who was familiar with Latin America, salesman and clerk WillemWildschut, who specialized in Absaroke (Crow) and Mandan objects, and hotel proprietor Edward H. Davis, who traveled throughout California, Arizona, and northern Mexico. These men were typically mavericks who developed close relationships with certain Indian communities, and they all demonstrated a particular facility with the camera.
Verrill was among Heye's most colorful collectors, a man who styled himself as an adventurer and explorer in the flamboyant tradition of popular literature and film. Trained as an artist, he attended the Yale School of Fine Arts, and at age seventeen he went to Dominica to collect fauna specimens for the Yale Museum. There he encountered Caribs while he was obtaining examples of local animals. He took up photography in the 1890s and established a professional studio and photography business with a specialty in photographing natural history.
The two men met around 1905, and Verrill began to collect for Heye in the Caribbean and South America. Over the next twenty years he made ethnological and archaeological trips in British Guiana, Panama, Bolivia, Peru, and Chile (fig. 50). Verrill’s unpublished autobiography is replete with stories of blood brother ceremonies, cannibals, and lost tribes and ancient cities. Writing of his experiences with the Sirionos in Bolivia, Verrill commented that "had it not been for my pictures they would have been considered mythical."26 In 1926 Heye abruptly dismissed Verrill when he came to the conclusion that the photographer was somehow taking advantage of him.

#26 A. Hyatt Verrill, as told to Ruth Verrill, unpublished manuscript, NMAI Archive, OCO/32,411.

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As an armed forces brat, we lived in Rockcliff (Ottawa), Namao (Edmonton), Southport (Portage La Prairie), Manitoba, and Dad retired to St. Margaret's Bay, NS.
Working with the Federal Govenment for 25 years, Canadian Hydrographic Service, mostly. Now married to Gail Kelly, with two grown children, Luke and Denyse. Retired to my woodlot at Stillwater Lake, NS, on the rainy days I study the life and work of A. Hyatt Verrill 1871-1954.