One thing I have begun to explore lately within photography is going beyond changing the narrative we tell of indigenous peoples. I’m trying to show the dominant culture what it is like to see the world from a Native point of view, yet even that’s not quite right. In this interview for the Strange Fire Collective, I speak about making photographs as looking at the contemporary world, strange as it is, though indigenous lenses. That’s what Hamidah Glasgow has pulled out of me in my many conversations I’ve had with her over the last several months. I hope you enjoy this interview as much as I’ve enjoyed talking to Hamidah.
A great way to illustrate this is the reaction to an image of a butchered seal. From an indigenous viewpoint, that seal meat is a gift from the seal, and it’s nourishing food. From the colonial gaze, it’s either seen as quaint and exotic or as a repulsive tradition.
It was one of the greatest honors and privileges of my life to speak at National Geographic in Washington DC before an audience of my photographic heroes. I used the platform of the 2019 NatGeo Photo Seminar to speak about my story on the Iñupiaq, and about the importance of representation for marginalized peoples in photography.
The world is full of stories. How many of those stories don’t just repeat what we already know? How many stories teach us to see the world from a truly different perspective? Indigenous peoples are cast as tragic victims, of colonization, of climate change. Yet the views from the inside are not ones of despair, but joy. While the dominant cultures continue to gaze at us as they always have, Native storytellers work to offer our own perspectives through modern mediums.
Excited to announce that my series Îslandia has won Best Series in ASMP’s Photo Contest. It’s an honor for these to get past the discerning eyes of the judges, including Gregory Heisler, who is a hero of mine.
I’m happy to announce that my short film Anaiyyun: Prayer for the Whale is now in the National Geographic Short Films Showcase. This is the official online release of the film after a year of screening at film festivals around the world. Quyanaqpak to all my Iñupiaq friends that helped to make this film about their lives on the sea ice.
On the sea ice in northern Alaska, the Inupiat wait for the whales. The tradition spans 1,000 years, and a successful catch will feed an entire community for the winter. During whaling season, crew members spend their days watching the icy Arctic water for the right moment to strike. It will take courage and skill to achieve their mission, and they must avoid desperately hungry polar bears along the way. But in the long moments they stand on the ice, protected from the wind inside a fur-lined parka, a timeless gratitude develops. In those moments, the patient act of waiting transforms into a prayer for the whale. Anaiyyun: Prayer for the Whale,from filmmaker Kiliii Yüyan, tells the story of an Inupiat whaling crew that hunts where the vast plain of ice meets the waters of the Arctic Ocean.
Recently I spoke with Ted Alvarez, host of the Explorist podcast, a well-crafted podcast on the interaction with nature and people. The first season of the podcast is all about hunting and gathering in modern times, from looking at non-natives those who are involved primitive skills, to subsistence indigenous communities. My interview closes out the season with hair-raising stories from the sea ice, and major themes in my work as an indigenous person from an extant hunter-gatherer culture. It’s one of my favorite interviews.
Thanks to Glazer’s camera for a successful talk and exhibition opening last weekend! It brought a lot of people in from the NW who were interested in the stories of the indigenous Arctic, and I think it stirred a lot of people’s deep curiosity. Special thanks to Will Kutscher and Dana Rasmussen for their efforts, as well as Nikon and Moab Paper for sponsoring the exhibition. The exhibition will be open until the end of December 2019.
The Arctic Refuge, a battleground between oil interests and environmentalists, has become a symbolic struggle over the last 30 years in America. Aside from all of that, it’s of particular interest to me because the people with the most vested interest in the Refuge are the indigenous people that live within it, the Gwich’in, who depend on the caribou for their way of life. This is a story I’ve long been interested in.
There’s no need for me to expound here, as writer Brooke Jarvis has already done a terrific job at weaving together the different perspectives on ANWR and why, at this moment in time, we need to leave at least one corner of this vast wilderness for the caribou and the indigenous peoples who have kept this place beautiful for millennia.
Many thanks to Jason Marks for the story, Sam Murphy for a great edit, and my fellow expeditioners who made our journey safe and brought human warmth to the Arctic.
It was an honor to speak at the George Eastman Museum in October about my work with indigenous communities of the Arctic. The recording of the entire talk is now on Youtube. I spoke about the importance of deep cultural immersion in photography as well as the range of indigenous issues that we face in the North- then end with a message of hope for our communities!
It’s increasingly important to help people visualize the Arctic as a living ecosystem with people and wildlife together. This is especially true in the case of the coalition working to ban the use of heavy-fuel oil for ships in the Arctic.
Heavy fuel oil is a cheap, viscous and dirty source of energy for large ships and has long been used as a primary fuel source in shipping. Both the International Maritime Organization and indigenous groups from the Iñupiat community of the Arctic Slope to the Inuit Circumpolar Council. At a meeting late October, the IMO pushed the issue of a ban forward and it’s a great step towards ensuring that marine mammals and the ocean ecosystem of the Arctic will not be decimated by a spill.
I donated photographs for the exhibition ‘The Arctic- On Our Watch’, put on during the IMO meeting in London, and it was heavily viewed by meeting participants. One more step towards listening to the voice of those who understand the Arctic the most– its indigenous peoples