On Photography

Interview with The Photographic Journal

There are interviewers and there are great interviewers. Lou Noble of The Photographic Journal not only has a distinctive vision in fine art photography, but he’s also a terrific interviewer.

We spoke at length about growing up as mixed-ethnicity child, about the struggles of Native peoples, and of course, about how photography has the power to illuminate and bring hope to those who are the most in need of it.

I would say most of the time, almost all of the work happens before I put my eye up to the viewfinder. I tend to be looking at light, I tend to be looking at gesture, at what people are doing, and of course the meaning of things. Meaning is always in the background, for me, so I’m always thinking about why is this important?

It’s a long interview. But if you have the patience to read it, it’s a great capture of how I think about storytelling and how our current storytellers will need to work to make the world hopeful for coming generations.

We are still here: Photography as Colonization

Today Survival International published a roundup of indigenous criticism of photographer Jimmy Nelson, and his book, Before They Pass Away. I get asked how I feel about Jimmy Nelson’s book all the time, and this is a deep conversation that often makes my day feel darker. Let me be clear– while I believe that Jimmy Nelson has good intentions, his work is classic colonization.

As indigenous peoples we are tired of being seen as having existed only in the past. We are still here, and suffering great traumas at the hands of settlers and colonial governments at this current moment. Jimmy’s work casts indigenous peoples as A) only beautiful in the past and B) nearly extinct. We are clearly nowhere near extinct (there are over 600,000 Maori living in New Zealand, and 150,000 Iñuit across the Arctic), and in the modernization of our traditional clothing and outward appearances there are the obvious signs of globalization’s effects on our communities.

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