Today’s Native photographers utilize technology, technique and identity to help fulfill their visions. In a new 516 Arts photography exhibit in Albuquerque, New Mexico entitled As We See It, Contemporary Native American Photographers, seven Native photographers from around the country are doing just that.
Each photographer use different techniques — Some use the latest technology, some use old tintype techniques, some print on mixed media and more.
Wendy Red Star (Crow)
Red Star’s mixed media project is a powerful introduction to the exhibit. Her images are digitally printed on cotton and sewn to tapestry. Redstar says “I want to show people what has happened to Indian people in the past and how native people are living today.”
Will Wilson (Dine’/Bilagaana)
Using the equipment available to photographer Edward Curtis at the beginning of the 20th century, Will Wilson creates his own historical portraiture. Using Curtis’s older techniques requires patience. Wilson has to have his subjects sit still for a minimum of eight seconds before the tintype images can properly take. (Sitting still that long can result in an overly serious expression on the faces of subjects.)
Matika Wilbur (Swinomish/Tulalip)
Matika Wilbur launched a kickstarter on October 1st, 2012, and successfully raised funds for her Project 562, a project that has taken has taken her cross-country in an initial effort to take photos of all 562 federally recognized tribes in the United States.
That number now amounts to 567. Wilbur says, “Project 562 will educate beyond the stereotypical image, encouraging a global shift in the consciousness toward Native Americans.” Wilbur’s travels were far from cushy, as she says on her blog, and writes that she “learned to live inside a 22-foot home that requires dumping of #1’s and 2’s once a week, and has a tiny-tiny shower.”
Jamison “Chas” Banks (Seneca-Cayuga/Cherokee)
Jamison “Chas” Banks, USAAF B-29 “Big Bad Wolf” Crew, 2011
Jamison “Chas” Banks reimagines old imagery to create new narratives. Here, Banks re-creates a World War II photograph, complete with Native pilots, one of which is the young Cheyenne/Arapaho filmmaker Echota Killsnight.
Tom Jones (Ho-Chunk)
Toy Trees by Tom Jones - From top to bottom) Hopi, Maricopa, Jicarilla and Choctaw Landscapes
Tom Jones uses Edward S. Curtis’s series of photographs in the “North American Indian” as a jumping off point for his own series of toy photographs. Jones says, “Toys have the power to teach children about history and and the world around them. In this photographic series, I question how the history of the North American landscape is known and perceived through the education of our children.”
Larry McNeil (Tlingit/Nisga’a)
Larry McNeil believes photography to be the perfect medium to connect with the public at large. McNeil says,“Photography is an equalizer. It’s universal in the sense that people can understand it easily. It’s kind of an instant message…it can break down these artificial barriers that we’ve set up for ourselves.” McNeil uses humor in his work to get to the deeper issues. “The main motive behind my work is humor and using humor as a tool to get to bigger underlying issues.” McNeil uses the juxtaposition of images to make points. His photographs include imagery of Tonto breaking the Lone Ranger out of jail as he does in Tonto’s Earthen House or a Native man standing in front of a trading post in New Mexico that advertises “Real Indians” or a gas-masked figure attempting to survive in a world of pollution in in Raven Bears Witness, 2013.
As We See It, Contemporary Native American Photographers is running through September 17, 2016. The exhibit is co-curated by Suzanne Fricke and India Rael Young.
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