Portraiture and the Three Affiliated Tribes Fort Berthold, North Dakota
As a photographer, writer and photo historian, I have long admired the heritage of Native Americans and their place in the photographic history our country. After thirty five years as a professional portraitist, I have finally reached that previously unattainable point in my life and where I am able to re-prioritize my career and artistic objectives. Stepping back from the day to day business of commercial photography, I am now in a position to undertake many of those wonderful projects which I have planned for years, notably a portrait portfolio of Native Americans.
As a student of photographic history, I have long admired the work of Edward Sheriff Curtis. Despite the fact that his images were at times culturally inaccurate, he devoted his life to the documentation of the Native American Indian, and in so doing, created a unique and remarkable visual archive.
Working with a large format view camera and sheet film, and printing in the magnificent 19th century hand made process of Platinum, I have produced portraits which are simultaneously classic and contemporary. This small sampling attempts to recreate the feel of Curtis’ imagery as well as showcase a more modern vision. My subjects are the traditional as well as current faces of the Mandan, Hidatsa, and Arikara Tribes from the Fort Berthold Reservation in North Dakota.
With the help of local photographer and tribal member Anisa Nin, I spent several weeks at Fort Berthold in May of 2010 photographing tribal elders, descendants of tribal members who were photographed by Curtis, and descendants of many of the famous Indian chieftains.
In addition to building a personal collection of Native American portraits drawn from the Three Affiliated Tribes, I will produce a master series of Platinum prints which will be donated to the National Museum of the American Indian in Washington. These images will help update their collection of over 325,000 photographs. The series will also be donated to the Three Tribes Museum in New Town, North Dakota, currently directed by Marilyn Hudson and Calvin Grinnell who were central to the creation of this collection. Karen Paetz – Sitting Crow of the Tribal Office of Tourism was also extremely helpful, as was Nancy Walter, Executive Director of the Taube Museum in Minot, North Dakota.