One of the characteristics of Benedicte Wrensted's work was her retouching of negatives. Rather than presenting her subjects with imperfections, she brushed their faces and hands to erase shadows, blemishes, or signs of aging, thus assuring customer satisfaction.
The practice of retouching was not uncommon in Wrensted's day. But her distinctive style of varnishing in a circular pattern helped establish that a number of unattributed negatives in the collection at the Idaho Museum of Natural History were hers.
Johnny Ballard was born in Wyoming, June 29, 1876, four days after the Battle of the Little Big Horn. When his father Jim Ballard died, Johnny Ballard became the last hereditary leader of the Bannock. He spoke numerous languages, including Sioux, Crow, and Cree. He married Julia Baker in a ceremony at the Mission of Good Shepherd on the Fort Hall Reservation.
Little is known about Charlie Pizoka. His vest is of old Sioux style, possibly from South Dakota.
Frank Randall was born January 1, 1872, to Cayuse Mary (Bannock) and George Randall (Anglo-American). Frank Randall was elected councilman for the Ross Fork District in 1930 and served on the tribes' Advisory Council before the 1934 Indian Reorganization Act. He was outspoken on the issues of alcoholism and better education for Native Americans. He was photographed often throughout his life, by Wrensted and others.
One of the major differences between Wrensted's portraits of Euro-American and Sho-Ban patrons is the partial versus full-length pose. In her Euro-American portraits, the focus is on the subject's face, showing only the head and shoulders, with the image often presented in an oval frame. These partial body poses are probably photographic emulations of the painted miniature, part of European portraiture tradition.
In contrast, Wrensted's photos of Indians were usually full-length, which de-emphasized faces, but documented the elaborate clothing. Was this a preference of the photographer or the subject? It is probable that the Sho-Ban selected the pose, as most patrons of photographic studios made their choices from displayed examples.
A Sho-Ban preference for whole images would be consistent with the Native American lack of a facial portraiture tradition. In Indian rock art as well as nineteenth-century Indian ledger art, human figures were full length.