When Quincy Tahoma left Santa Fe High School, after extending his schooling for an extra year to concentrate on his art–a common practice at that time–he was fortunate to have the mentorship of eminent photographer T. Harmon Parkhurst.
Parkhurst has been bouncing back into our attention lately and so it is time to talk about him and his relationship to Navajo artist Quincy Tahoma.
I believe that the first indication we had that Quincy worked for Parkhurst came from some people who knew Tahoma in high school. It was much more than just a job. Parkhurst had a sort of scaffolding in his studio which he encouraged Tahoma to use as a studio. The studio was located near the Plaza in Santa Fe and Parkhurst had many wealthy and famous patrons (like the movie stars that visited hotels and Greer Garson’s ranch just outside of town.) So when he exhibited Tahoma’s paintings in the window, the young artist got a good audience. And Parkhurst looked after Tahoma like a kindly uncle.
Parkhurst specialized in photographing western scenery, American Indians, and when the rodeo started in Santa Fe, he photographed there also. Tahoma must have been an eager companion at the rodeo, since he loved horses, and loved drawing and painting them.
We visited the Governor’s Palace Photo Archives in Santa Fe and talked to a long-time curator who showed us some of Parkhursts prints and told us that he sometimes hired Tahoma (and perhaps other Navajo or Pueblo painters) to color some of the black and white prints that the photographer made. We found information about Parkhurst in the library and in the archives and went to the address of his old home on Canyon Road. An art gallery stands there now. Surprise, surprise! Practically nothing but art galleries inhabit this street that was once residential. However, the owner kindly told us that the man next door to the gallery, who lived in one of the only private homes remaining, might be able to tell us something about Parkhurst.
We knocked on the door door and were warmly welcomed by a man whose Spanish family’s roots go way back in Santa Fe. As a young man, he personally had helped care for Parkhurst after he was injured at one of the rodeos he was photographing. We had struck pay dirt for researchers. He gave us a lot of information about Canyon Road and about Parkhurst, his ex-wife, and his daughters, which we included in our biography of Quincy Tahoma (to be published next year!)
In April, we were contacted by a Parkhurst grandson, the son of Parkhurst’s daughter. Then suddenly a few weeks ago, we received an e-mail from a woman who said she was a granddaughter of Parkhurst–the daughter of his son–a son we did not know existed. We learned even more about Parkhurst from his grandchildren.
Recently, Jan Musial, a Flagstaff dealer in Indian art, sent us an article from El Palacio, the publication of the Museums of New Mexico. While it did not have new information, it confirmed that Parkhurst hired Tahoma to hand-color his black and white prints. Since the photographer worked in a period before color film, these colored prints are rare and special as they had to be hand-done by an artist.
The El Palacio article shows four “lantern slides” in color that come from the Governor’s Palace Photo Archives. They were recently donated by the same Parkhurst grandson who contacted us.
It is such a joy to have new information, or to get old information confirmed. We know that this process will continue after the book is published, and hope you will forgive us for not finding everything the first time around.
We have never seen a photo that we know was colored by Tahoma. Parkhurst’s granddaughter’s email let us know that she had some hand-colored photos, but we wonder if there are others out there. So if you have some connection to one, we would love to know about it. Having suffered in our youth through a few very ugly colorations of black and white portraits, we are willing to bet that Quincy Tahoma did a much better job. But we would surely like to see one of those hand-painted prints. Can you help?