FACES:  South Seas Portraits by Two Kansans with a Kodak

Showing June 2019 through October 2019

In a time when most Americans never ventured beyond their own shores, Martin and Osa Johnson brought home the sights and sounds of faraway places.  In their films and books, they introduced audiences to exotic peoples and presented close-up encounters with epic creatures. The silent images the Johnsons shined on silver screens across the world electrified audiences.  Each new expedition contained heightened thrills and crossed yet another frontier of exploration and cinematography.

The Johnson’s are best remembered for their wildlife encounters, but in 1917, they were among the first to create a visual record of life and custom in Oceania, primarily in the Solomon Islands and Vanuatu. Their photographs capture the faces of island ancestors and documented the culture and traditions that shaped people’s lives more than one hundred years ago.  This special exhibition in our Selsor Art Gallery includes over 50 Johnsonian portraits of peoples taken in Tahiti, New Caledonia, Rarotonga, the Solomon Islands and Vanuatu.

Recently the museum updated our institutional Vision Statement with the lofty-yet-achievable goal to become a world-class biographical museum. This objective obviously includes our titular heroes, but to succeed, we must expand and cover the peoples in the photographs that Martin and Osa worked so diligently to record for future generations.  We know we will never be able to name every “face” in our film holdings, but we are determined to fill in as many gaps as we can about specific individuals and we also plan to broaden the background on the ethnic affiliations we present to preserve as much original context as possible.

If you have any information on the peoples filmed by Martin and Osa in this exhibition at our museum, on our website, or on social media, please contact us. Every new clue or insight we have on the peoples pictured is another chance to fill a glaringly blank space in their story.




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For directions or other assistance in planning your visit to the Martin and Osa Johnson Safari Museum, please call 620-431-2730 or email osajohns@safarimuseum.com