The Helga Teiwes photograph collection contains over 7,000 negatives, slides and prints made by Teiwes between 1965 and 2002. For over thirty years Teiwes worked as a staff photographer for the Arizona State Museum, photographing and documenting Native American communities across the American Southwest. During this time, Teiwes also privately took photographs and built personal relationships among members of the Akimel O'odham, Tohono O'odham, Apache, Diné (Navajo) and Hopi tribes. These photographs include portraits of artists at work, families in their homes, daily life on the reservation, special events and landscape photography. Additionally, the Teiwes collection includes photographs from a 1975 trip to Peru and photographs of the Tarahumara (Rarámuri) community in Chihuahua, Mexico.
Scope and Contents:
The Helga Teiwes photograph collection contains over 7,000 negatives, slides and prints made by Teiwes between 1965 and 2002 across the American Southwest, Mexico and Peru. The majority of the photographs document daily life and activities, artists at work, and special events among members of the Akimel O'odham, Tohono O'odham, Apache, Diné (Navajo) and Hopi tribes in Arizona and New Mexico. A smaller amount of photographs documents trips Teiwes made to Mexico to photograph the Tarahumara (Rarámuri) community in Chihuahua and a 1975 summer trip to Peru. The collection is arranged into seven series with additional subseries.
Series 1, Akimel O'odham (Pima), 1965-1993, 2001, contains photographs mostly taken among the Gila River Indian Community in Arizona. These include intimate portraits, landscape views and views of farming and agriculture. Of particular note are photographs of Patricia "Pat" Stone and her family and basket weaver Julia Francisco. The majority of the photographs in Series 2, Apache, 1973-1994, are from two San Carlos Apache coming of age ceremonies, or "Changing Woman" ceremonies, from 1992 and 1994. The 1992 ceremony for Leia Tenille Johnson was held in Whiteriver, Arizona and the 1994 ceremony for Vanessa Jordan of Bylas, Arizona. A selection of 50 photographic prints from these ceremonies were later exhibited in "Western Apache Sunrise Ceremony" at the University of Kansas Museum of Anthropology. The largest series, Series 3, Diné (Navajo), 1969-2002, is divided into seven subseries by topics. This includes artists and artisans, families and individuals across the Navajo Nation, industry and agriculture, trading posts and markets, places, schools, and other topics. Of particular note are the photographs of the Greyeyes family from Tsegi Canyon, Arizona. In addition to photographing matriarch Bessie Salt Greyeyes at home with family, weaving, cooking, shopping around town and herding sheep and goats, Teiwes accompanied Pete Greyeyes to work at the Peabody Coal Mining Company. Other places and events of note include photographs of Monument Valley, Window Rock, seat of the Navajo Nation, the Hubbell and Shonto trading posts and the 1990 graduation from Navajo Community College (Now Diné College).
Series 4, Hopi, 1968-2002, highlights the work and artistry of Hopi basket weavers. Many of the photographs in this series were included in Teiwes's 1996 book Hopi Basket Weaving: Artistry in Natural Fibers. Coiled basket weavers from the Second Mesa include Madeline Lamson, Joyce Ann Saufkie, Evelyn Selestewa and Bertha Wadsworth, among others. Wicker basket weavers from the Third Mesa include Eva Hoyungowa, Abigail Kaursgowva, Vera Pooyouma and Vernita Silas, among others. Teiwes also photographed additional artists and events on the Hopi reservation including Maechel Saufkie's 1995 wedding. Series 5, Peru, 1975 includes photographs from Teiwes's 1975 summer trip to Peru. Teiwes visited and photographed several pre-Colombian archaeological sites including Sacsahuaman and Machu Piccu in addition to photographing in larger cities such as Cuzco, Lima and Quito (Ecuador). A large number of photographs in this series are from the Inti Raymi parade and festival held in Cuzco during their winter solstice. Series 6, Tarahumara (Rarámuri), 1971, 1977-1979 contains photographs from three trips to Chihuahua, Mexico to photograph the Tarahumara (Rarámuri) people for an Arizona State Museum exhibition held in 1979. Also included are photographs from the exhibition opening in Arizona. Series 7, Tohono O'odham, 1969-1995, 2002 contains photographs of the saguaro cactus harvest in addition to other special events among the Tohono O'odham people. Teiwes documented Juanita Ahill, and later her niece Stella Tucker, throughout the process of harvesting and processing the saguaro cactus plant to make jam and ceremonial wine. Additional events photographed in this series include the San Xavier Elders parade and Tumacacori festival.
The photographs in this collection range all media types: 6x6cm color/black and white negatives; 35mm color/black and white negatives; 35mm and 6x6cm color slides; 6x6cm transparencies; contact sheets; and 3x5, 4x6, 8x10 and larger color/black and white photographic prints, some matted for sale or exhibition purposes. Teiwes did include handwritten notations on the backs of some photographs and slide mounts. There is also a small amount of paper documentation.
This collection is arranged into seven series by culture group or location. Series 1: Akimel O'odham (Pima), Series 2: Apache, Series 3: Diné (Navajo), Series 4: Hopi, Series 5: Peru, Series 6: Tarahumara (Rarámuri), Series 7: Tohono O'odham.
Biographical / Historical:
Helga Kulbe Teiwes was born in Büderich, near Düsseldorf, in Germany in 1930. In 1950 Teiwes began a trade apprenticeship in photography under Master photographer Erna Hehmke-Winterer, a specialist in black and white portraiture, architectural and industrial photography. In 1957 Teiwes earned her master's degree in photography and worked as an industrial photographer in Düsseldorf until she emigrated to New York in 1960. During her four years in New York City, Teiwes worked as a darkroom worker, an assistant photographer for Cartier Jewelers and as a transparency retoucher. She also continued to build her portfolio through free-lance work. In 1964, a trip to Mesa Verde inspired Teiwes to seek work in the Southwest. The same year she was hired by Dr. Emil Haury of the University of Arizona to photograph his excavation of Snaketown on the Gila River Indian Reservation. Following Snaketown, Teiwes was hired as a museum photographer for the Arizona State Museum (ASM) at the University of Arizona in Tucson. She was also sought after for other archaeological projects during the 1960s and 1970s to take publication and studio shots. During this time, Teiwes developed a deep interest in the people and cultures of the Southwest and spent a significant amount of time on reservations building personal relationships among the Hopi, Apache, Tohono O'dham and Diné (Navajo) among others. Teiwes took a particular interest in documenting Native artists and the work they produced, including basket weavers, potters, jewelers and carvers. Teiwes also worked to capture everyday life among the Native people of the Southwest in addition to documenting special events like the Apache coming of age ceremony and the Tohono O'odham Saguaro Cactus harvest. Teiwes retired from the Arizona State Museum in 1993 but continued to work as a freelance photographer and writer in Tuscon.
Throughout her career Teiwes's photographs and essays were published nationally and internationally. Her photographic study Navajo was published by the Swiss publisher U. Bar Varlag in 1991 and published in English in 1993. Her books Kachina Dolls: The Art of the Hopi Carvers and Hopi Basket Weaving: Artistry in Natural Fibers were published by the University of Arizona Press in 1991 and 1996. From October 2003 to June 2004, the Arizona State Museum held an exhibition titled "With an Eye on Culture: The Photography of Helga Teiwes" highlighting the broad scope of her career.
In 2013, Teiwes donated her collection of personal photographs, not taken for the Arizona State Museum, to the National Museum of the American Indian, Archive Center. Teiwes's photographs taken for the Arizona State Museum are housed in the ASM's photographic archives.
There is a large collection of photographs at the Arizona State Museum where Teiwes worked from 1964-1993. These photographs include harvesting of mesquite, cholla, and saguaro; traditional farming of corn at Hopi and of tepary beans among the Tohono O'odham; and craftspeople and their art in basketry, katsina carving, pottery, and weaving.
This collection was donated by Helga Teiwes in 2013.
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Please contact the NMAI Archive Center (NMAIArchives@si.edu) regarding the use of this collection, donor restrictions apply.