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Florence Pestrikoff, One of Remaining Speakers of Alutiiq

Paul Adams and Jordan Layton2017

Smithsonian's National Portrait Gallery

Smithsonian's National Portrait Gallery
Washington, D.C., United States

In a portrait that emphasizes photography’s inherent tension between absence and presence, Florence Pestrikoff gazes directly at the viewer with a curious and wise expression. Pestrikoff is one of the last Native speakers of Alutiiq, an endangered Native American language spoken in the village of Akhiok on the Aleutian Islands in Alaska.

Photographers Paul Adams and Jordan Layton made this portrait using a 20 x 24-inch view camera as part of a series of the last Native speakers of endangered Native American languages. Made with the nineteenth-century wet-collodion tintype process, the portraits are not only hauntingly beautiful in their soft-focus, velvety appearance but are also durable. Created with the most permanent of all photographic processes, they symbolically preserve the faces of the sitters in images that will outlast the disappearing Native languages.

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