A Gibson Girl in New Guinea

Two Seattle women have retraced the intrepid travels of model and portrait artist Caroline Mytinger, who journeyed to the South Sea islands in the 1920s to capture “vanishing primitives” on canvas

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In the spring of 2005, the two women (above, in the village of Patutiva on the Solomon Island of Vangunu; Westmorland is at left) carried out their plan, leading a five-person team on a two-month journey to the Solomon Islands and Papua New Guinea. Along the way, they visited many of the same places that Mytinger and Margaret Warner had explored in the 1920s and documented how the lives and customs of the local people had changed.

In addition to cameras, computers and other equipment, Westmorland and Huntt brought with them large-format reproductions of Mytinger’s pictures. “The visual reference gave the native people an immediate understanding of why we had come and what we were trying to do,” Huntt reports. “This made them feel honored and proud, as they could see how respectfully Mytinger had portrayed their ancestors.” The pictures also helped the two photographers find the descendants of several of the people the artist had depicted, including the son of a man pictured in her Marovo Lagoon Family.

Now the two adventurers are raising an additional $300,000 for the next stage of the project—a documentary film they plan to produce from the more than 90 hours of footage they shot during their travels and a book and traveling exhibition of their photographs and Mytinger’s South Seas paintings. If they succeed, it will be the first major exhibition of Mytinger’s work in nearly 70 years.


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