| Courtesy of the
Pitt Rivers Museum,
Sir Francis Knowles began working on contract for the Anthropological Division of the Geological Survey of Canada (now part of the Canadian Museum of Civilization) in 1912 as a physical anthropologist. His fieldwork focused on taking detailed body measurements and hair samples from living subjects — information which he later used to make comparative studies with skeletal remains from pre-contact Iroquoian archaeological sites.
Knowles's field studies were undertaken among the Iroquois of the Six Nations Reserve in southern Ontario and the Seneca (Iroquoian) people of the Tonawanda Reservation in western New York State. Supplementing his measurements of facial and physical characteristics, Knowles also took an extensive series of photographic portraits.
Knowles's photographs of the Iroquois are an unexpected and compassionate portrait of a people, transcending the scientific basis with which he began. A trained sculptor, Knowles had the eye of an artist, as evidenced in his portrait composition and his mastery of photographic craft. Knowles's field notes say little about his photographic interests, however, instead describing a passion for the sculpting of clay busts — an art he studied in England.
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