History-Buff Cop Rescues Wounded Knee Pix

(Updated) One image shows armed U.S. marshals surrounding the town of Wounded Knee in 1973. Other photographs offer contemporary portraits of American Indians, tattooed or in traditional dress, in South Dakota and Washington state.

While the content of the pictures—found Wednesday in a driveway in East Rock—is clear, the identity of the photographer was a mystery, until Saturday. That’s when Officer Paul Kenney got a call from photographer Owen Luck, who was looking for his lost photos.

The images are part of a collection of 11x14-inch photographs that were discovered Wednesday in front of 22 Lincoln St., near the corner of Bradley Street in East Rock. Officer Kenney was heading up the search for the owner of the photographs, which are organized in plastic sleeves in five binders inside a professional portfolio case.

That case was stolen from Luck’s car on Wednesday morning, the photographer said on Saturday.

Kenney (pictured), a 22-year veteran cop assigned to East Rock, was the officer who picked up the photos after the owner of 22 Lincoln discovered the open case in her driveway Wednesday. The thief seems to have snatched the case from Luck’s car, then abandoned it as worthless.

Thomas MacMillan PhotoThe photos are far from worthless. They represent a body of serious photographic work stretching from 1973 to 2005: photos of American Indians on the Pine Ridge reservation in South Dakota and a Makah reservation in Neah Bay, Wash. The black-and-white photos comprise intimate portraits and documentary photographs of daily life and special events on the reservations.

The first binder to catch Kenney’s eye, he said, was the one marked “Pine Ridge, 1973.” That’s the one that contains pages of photos from the “Wounded Knee Incident,” when members of the American Indian Movement (AIM) seized control of the town of Wounded Knee for 71 days in 1973. The photos seemed to be insider images of armed AIM members holding meetings, along with images of the U.S. marshals who cordoned off the town.

The other binders in the portfolio hold more contemporary images. One binder has no label. The others are marked “Pine Ridge 2000-03”, “Neah Bay 2004” and “Neah Bay 2005,” referring to a spot on the coast of Washington. Based on the clothes and cars in the binders, the photos in all the binders except the Pine Ridge one were taken in the last decade.

On Friday, before the owner was located, Kenney said it’s clear that the photographer was in the thick of it during the Wounded Knee Incident, documenting an important historical moment. “This guy was there.”

Working on that assumption, Kenney assumed the photographer was in his or her 60s. He was right.

“I’m 63,” Luck said on Saturday, after he spent over an hour chatting with Kenney.

In a phone conversation, he shared the story behind the pictures:

“I was a photojournalist in the ‘70s,” Luck said. The photos in the “Pine Ridge, 1973” are from his coverage of the Wounded Knee Incident for the Sigma photo agency.

Later, after discovering there was no money in photojournalism, Luck went into making TV commercials. He was able to retire from that at age 50, and returned to photographing. He first went back to Pine Ridge, in 2000, and spent a few summers making pictures out there. But life on the rez was “just a bit too depressing.” He moved on to the Pacific Northwest, and began photographing tribes on the coast.

Now he spends his summers in the Pacific Northwest and his winters in the darkroom. He lives in Blooming Grove, N.Y.

“My work is mostly collected here at Yale,” Luck said. The Beinecke library has archived about 500 of his images of American Indians.

Luck is in the middle of a month at Yale on a research fellowship, pursuing his interest in history. He’s been staying at a guest house on Bradley Street. That’s where his car was broken into. The thief grabbed his portfolio of work prints—not final gallery prints—and his Sirius satellite radio.

His first reaction to the loss of his pictures? “This is going to be the biggest pain in the ass, reprinting all this stuff.”

Then he checked his email late Friday night. He found a message from George Miles, the curator of Western American at the Beinecke. Someone had seen the article in the Independent, emailed Miles, and Miles emailed Luck.

“I clicked on the link,” Luck said, and saw photos of his photos in the police station.

He called the station Saturday and was connected to Kenney. They’re going to meet up in a couple days to collect his work from the police station’s property room.

“He’s a really good cop,” Luck said. “We talked for over an hour.”

Kenney, it turns out, is a history buff just like Luck. The photographer said he was impressed by the cop’s extensive knowledge of the Revolutionary War. He plans to take Kenney over to the Beinecke and show him some of the 300-year-old books he’s been reading.

Read other installments in the Independent’s “Cop of the Week” series:

Shafiq Abdussabur
Lloyd Barrett
Maneet Bhagtana
Paul Bicki
Scott Branfuhr
Dennis Burgh
Sydney Collier
David Coppola
Roy Davis
Joe Dease
Milton DeJesus
Brian Donnelly
Anthony Duff
Bertram Etienne
Paul Finch
Jeffrey Fletcher
Renee Forte
Marco Francia
William Gargone
William Gargone & Mike Torre
Derek Gartner
Jon Haddad & Daniela Rodriguez
Dan Hartnett
Ray Hassett
Robin Higgins
Ronnell Higgins
Racheal Inconiglios
Hilda Kilpatrick
Peter Krause
Amanda Leyda
Anthony Maio
Steve McMorris
Stephanie Redding
Tony Reyes
Luis & David Rivera
Salvador Rodriguez
Brett Runlett
David Runlett
Marcus Tavares
Martin Tchakirides
Stephan Torquati
Gene Trotman Jr.
Kelly Turner
Lars Vallin (& Xander)
John Velleca
Alan Wenk
Michael Wuchek
David Zannelli
David Zaweski

(To suggest an officer to be featured, contact us here.)

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posted by: Jeffery on October 15, 2010  11:05pm

The driveway described as being at Lincoln and Bradley Sts is far closer to, A) Downtown, B) Fair Haven C) Newhallville, than “East Rock”.
Isn’t better just to say it was found near Trumbull St, which is not as near to “East Rock” as say Albert or Lyman Sts. which are considered “Cedar Hill”.
Lose the “East Rock” hype.
It got old fast and is just getting worse with subjective innuendo like this.

posted by: Queen on October 16, 2010  11:21am

It’s obvious who the rightful owners of the photos are….THE NATIVE AMERICANS!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Once again, here we go ‘DISCOVERING’ something that was already there!!! How cruel history can be when she chooses to repeat herself.

As with all property that can be claimed, you have 30 days to claim and after that these photos belong as an archival photo history in a Native American museum somewhere. Please don’t let these beautiful photos be auctioned off as a commodities just for profit.

Ok…I think I’m done now.

posted by: robn on October 16, 2010  1:05pm


I think that the artist is Owen Luck. He might be doing a fellowship over at Yale. Try the art department or the history department…or call Jock Reynolds at the YAG…he would probably know if he’s in town.

posted by: davec on October 17, 2010  11:39am

WOW!  Note to self: don;t keep life’s work in car.

posted by: robn on October 17, 2010  7:09pm

note to self…petty thieves in New Haven = more destructive than indigenous peoples with rifles.

posted by: Cedarhillresident on October 18, 2010  8:59am

-Great happy ending. Smart cop to not just blow them off as junk.
-Excellent call by poster Robn (still dieing to know who you are but Paul will not tell me).
-Shows that beauty of what a local paper can do!

posted by: DTN on October 18, 2010  10:11am

Wow Officer Corky! You must have gained all of that historical insight from hanging out at the British Art Museum on your B-squad walking beat in the early 1990’s with Eye-Eye, The Ghost, Roderick and Boot’s

posted by: robn on October 18, 2010  11:07am


I am a stag of seven tines
I am a wide flood on a plain
I am a wind on the deep waters
I am a shining tear of the sun
I am a hawk on a cliff
I am fair among flowers
I am a god who sets the head afire with smoke
I am a battle waging spear
I am a salmon in the pool
I am a hill of poetry
I am a ruthless boar
I am a threatening noise of the sea
I am a wave of the sea
Who but I knows the secrets of the unhewn dolmen?

Just kidding…I’m just little old John Q Public.

posted by: Cedarhillresident on October 18, 2010  11:34am

Dang it… all I got from that was Irish?? or a Tree? or the Horned god?? :P

posted by: Ex-NHPD on October 18, 2010  1:02pm

Nice job Paul.  You took a “mundane” call (not for the owner) and saw it through to the end. And you did it right on the border of your old district.

D-1’s(Downtown) loss is D-7’s (East Rock) gain!

posted by: eli antonio on October 18, 2010  3:17pm

Hey paul, did you follow her around with a recording device to wait for her to make a mistake so you could “expose the nhpd”?

posted by: Rachael on October 21, 2010  5:38am

@Jeff - East Rock is the area/post Officer Kenney is assigned and I don’t believe they were trying to test our geography.

Officer Kenney certainly has the gift of gab and is an old school cop that anyone would be proud to have in their neighborhood. Pastore and Esserman would be proud of you Paul.