FARMINGTON — The Farmington Museum will unveil its popular Navajo photography exhibit for the first time in six years on Dec. 20.

The exhibit features about 800 photographs taken by John Collier Jr. in the Upper Fruitland area from 1948-1953 and captures the region's transition from pastoral life to cash-crop agriculture.

"It was really popular because a lot of the family members in the photos are still around," said Bart Wilsey, museum director. "We had a tremendous response from the Navajo population in the Fruitland area."

The exhibit is made up of a selection of Collier Jr.'s photographs taken during his years documenting life on the Navajo Reservation and reveals the changes in post-World War II reservation life.

Although Collier Jr. maintained good relationships with the Navajo population, his father, John Collier, is vilified for his work as Commissioner for the Bureau of Indian Affairs under President Franklin D. Roosevelt that resulted in livestock reductions on the reservation.

"(Collier Jr.) just took a path of his own," Wilsey said. "The amazing part for me is that he has the same name, but he was able to overcome the stigma of what his father did."

Raymond Tsosie, a jeweler from Upper Fruitland, saw the exhibit when it first came to the Farmington Museum in 2006.

"The farming was not always here," Tsosie said. "It was really the beginning of the desert."

The exhibit shows far more than the transition from pastoral life to mechanized agriculture, Tsosie said.


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"There was a time when there was hunger here," he said. "Not everybody had sheep. It was tough. Those pictures that I saw depict that pretty well, that transition."

The area's transformation from desert into farmland is a point of pride, he said.

"Navajos by nature are hard workers," Tsosie said. "The pictures depict that hard work. When I saw them, I was proud."

The exhibit will be as enjoyable for those new to the area as it is for those who have seen it before, Wilsey said.

"I think it will give them a more in depth understanding of Navajo culture and their experience," he said.

The exhibit, "Photographing Navajos: John Collier Jr. on the Reservation, 1948-1953," will be on display from Dec. 20, 2012 through March 23.

The Farmington Museum is located at 3041 E. Main St. Admission is free. For additional information call 505-599-1174.