Erwin Smith, like many other photographers, photographed his family and friends involved in activities around his home. He had two younger sisters who appeared in many of his photographs. Albert, named after her father who died two months before her birth in 1890, was a teenager when Smith began photographing. A talented singer, she entertained friends around the piano in their home, and the gatherings became subjects for Smith's photography. Mary Alice, a half-sister born in 1906, was also a favorite model for Smith. One of his most frequently depicted subjects was his friend and colleague George Pattullo. Smith and Pattullo, a Western writer, met in Boston and soon became collaborators on many articles about cowboy life. Pattullo often stayed at Smith's home in Bonham while en route to ranching country.
Smith's most willing model, however, was himself. He appears in many of his own negatives, including both ranching scenes and studio portraits. Working with a colleague, perhaps Pattullo, Smith would pose as he wished to be depicted and have someone else operate the camera. Many of these images illustrate his horse-riding talent as he handled a rearing horse. He used these photographs on the cover of brochures advertising his inventory of work. For the studio portraits, Smith dressed up as both cowboy and Indian, wearing costumes he considered to be authentic garb.
Erwin E. Smith (1886–1947)
The Outlaw [pose by Erwin E. Smith], 1908
Gelatin dry plate negative
Erwin E. Smith Collection of the Library of Congress on deposit at the Amon Carter Museum