A combination of biography and photography compilation that explores the life of Doris Miller and her relationship with the Seminole Tribe of Florida.
Stans (Healing Plants, 2001) and Tribbett team up to tell the story of Miller, an amateur photographer who developed a close relationship with residents of the Brighton Reservation and, after retirement, became the “unofficial ‘official’ photographer for the Seminoles” during the last quarter of the 20th century. While Miller’s photographs of members of the Seminole tribe are a substantial portion of the book, it begins with a biography of Miller, who grew up in New York in a family connected to the entertainment industry. During World War II, Miller joined the Red Cross and traveled to Europe, where she organized and ran several of the organization’s clubs for servicemen. The authors have a wealth of material to draw from in this section, from photographs to Miller’s letters and diary, and the story of Miller’s overseas adventures is a compelling one, though not the book’s focus. The narrative breezes through the years between Miller’s departure from the Red Cross and her eventual retirement to Florida, where she was invited by a Seminole friend to visit the reservation and ended up taking thousands of color pictures of tribe members. The book makes it clear that although Miller was an outsider, she took pictures at the invitation of tribal leaders. Both the captions and the narrative also emphasize that because most of Miller’s photographs were taken during ceremonial events, they reflect a traditional costume rather than everyday wear on the reservation. The authors wisely include a helpful primer on Seminole customs for readers unfamiliar with the tribe, although their explanations do at times become oversimplified: “Members are considered elder when they turn fifty-five years of age and meet other requirements.” The dozens of full-color portraits of tribe members are often compelling, showing the blend of traditional and modern elements that makes up life on the reservation.
A fascinating collection of Miller’s portraits of contemporary Seminoles, enhanced by the story of Miller’s own life.