Native artist Louie Gong, who runs 8thgen, was featured on the cover of Native Peoples this month. We did this shoot a year ago and Louie still looks good, with his hybrid street art/nw coast/asian style on a skateboard deck. I still don’t have a copy yet so here’s what Louie texted me.
This last year I traveled extensively around the North Pacific rim to photograph indigenous people I call ‘modern traditionalists’. Here’s a behind the scenes look at all the amazing people and places and the stories I found along the way.
To be native in the year 2012 is to be modern. As a whole, we are both modern and traditional, full of culture and spirit passed down from many generations, but seeking to live in this new world and embrace it.
I began the NATIVE project, taking portraits of modern indigenous people last spring, not knowing it would evolve into a huge undertaking. It’s taken me from the cold interiors of traditional houses in Alaska to the bright summery forests of Oregon. I’ve learned so much about what it means to be a modern traditionalist native myself, as well as more about all the diversity that surrounds native attitudes from the big city to the remote village.
There’s so much to say about this kind of portraiture, steeped in sepia tones and shot with artificial light, but I’ll let you, the viewer, have the fun of diving in yourself. Thanks for letting me share.
Many thanks to the NW Portland Indian Health Board, the Alaska Native Heritage Center, and Daybreak Star Cultural Center for their help in making these portraits.
A few months ago, I had the opportunity to work with Tracy Rector and Longhouse Media on the promo poster for their new film, Clear Water. Longhouse Media’s an unusual media company– awarded by National Geographic for their work on films about indigenous peoples and minority issues.
As a young indigenous photographer, it was great working with both elders and younger Suquamish tribal members to produce their portraits– it felt like doing important work. I felt like I was catching a brief glimpse in time as the Suquamish continue to blend the modern world with their strong culture.
One woman still freedives for Geoduck clams, some 30ft down in the icy waters of the Salish Sea (Puget Sound). Amazing, and such a strong spirit. I hope that with these portraits I can share some of that strength with you.