Founder of the bookshop in Pasadena that still bears his name, Adam Clark Vroman spent eight summers photographing among the Native Americans of the Southwest between 1895 and 1904. He wrote and lectured about his experiences and published his photographs in the leading journals of the day. These visual mementos are something apart from ethnographic documents. Nor are they the era's sentimentalized vision of Native Americans as a "vanishing race." Vroman's sure-handed and sensitive approach to the people, sites, surroundings, and religious ceremonies of the Southwest infuse his photographs with a power uncharacteristic of the age.
While Vroman considered himself an amateur photographer, his expertise with the camera insured his inclusion on the three important expeditions of the era organized by Frederick Webb Hodge as well as the United States National Museum. These expeditions took him to the Rio Grande Pueblos of New Mexico as well as the Hopi and Navajo lands in northeast Arizona.
Over the course of his travels, Vroman mastered a style uniquely his own. He was captivated by the scenic drama of vast desert spaces, and he never tired of the stunning cloudscapes. He experimented with negatives, filters, and exposures until he achieved the dramatic contrast he sought. The subtle range of gray tones in Vroman's platinum prints evoke the quiet stillness and majesty of the subject and distinguish the work from that of other period photographers. Decades later, Edward Weston, Paul Strand, and Ansel Adams would make similarly exacting cloud studies in the clear Southwestern air. But none of Vroman's contemporaries combined this same perceptive vision with the technical facility to create such stunning images.