This past July, Walter Lamar attended North American Indian Days in Browning, Montana while his son Wasey traveled to the Mandree Powwow in Mandree, North Dakota. Both had cameras in hand. Walter is an enrolled member of the Blackfeet Nation and a descendent of Wichita Tribe. Besides Blackfeet and Wichita, Wasey is Hidatsa. He shoots with a Canon, Walter shoots with a Nikon; Wasey is Gen Y and Walter a Baby Boomer. Newton Lamar (Wichita), father of Walt and grandfather to Wasey, was a photographer in the late 1960s on the Navajo Nation. He told Walter that Native people have been storytellers since time immemorial, and explained that photography gives us the ability to tell a story with an image. Like a story, photographs entertain, educate and are a way to document history.
At pow wows and gatherings in the 1960s and 1970s Walter came to appreciate what he considers old style: calm deliberate movement, the graceful sway of shawl fringes, and the easy motion of rocker feathers. These days, Wasey sees the energetic athleticism of fancy and grass dancers contesting, regalia designed to catch the judge's eye, and jingle dancers lifting off the ground. Both male and female dancers are turning arenas into excitement of motion, vibrancy of color and the style of today. Walter tells his story of pow wow while Wasey tells his, both through Native eyes and the finely machined glass of their cameras.
Walter shoots with a Nikon D7100 and likes to shoot with two lenses that his father purchased in 1967, a 50mm and 24mm. The lenses are non-CPU, meaning they can’t communicate with the camera, requiring Walter to use all manual settings. “Looking through the same lenses as Dad,” he says, “is like seeing through his eye.”
Wasey shoots with a Canon 5D Mark iii and likes a 24-70 zoom at a 2.8 aperture setting. Like many of his generation, he gained photography technical expertise by watching hours and hours of online video. He credits his passion to his father and grandfather.
Both Walter and Wasey believe the only way to shoot pow wow is outdoors with natural light. The colors pop and natural shadows accentuate movement. When they shoot together there exists a fun father-son competitive interaction. They tease each other about settings and getting the shot. Walter likes to say, “Don’t worry son, if none of your shots turn out, you can use one of mine and we’ll say you took it.” Wasey just rolls his eyes and shoots away, showing one and all that he is a true photographer.