Someone posting under the username “CanadaGood” at flickr.com has put up an impressive array of over 100 photos of “totem poles”. What I like about this set is that most of these are not the iconic ones from coffee table books or museums but rather are still standing (or lying) in communities, mostly along the Skeena River. They aren’t the most technically accomplished photos or anything but they are undeniably atmospheric and they document the process of renewal and decay of poles which was an important part of the carving complex. Each pole is the material instance of the right to carve and display a set of crests or images, often as a memorial to a dead person of high status, and therefore the “thing” must be set against the intangible, non-material property of rights and titles which it represents. Proper treatment of the pole might therefore well include letting it return to the earth, replaced by a fresher copy. I like the matter of fact way this one is set up on stumps and this rotting masterpiece at Gitanyow. This figure is unusual for being “sculpture in the round”. Kudos to CanadaGood for putting pictures of these less commonly seen poles on flickr, in high resolution, and under a Creative Commons licence to boot.
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