Watch the video and be inspired. No more introduction is needed.
The twins are 13 years old and their father was the Mountain Lion hunter for southern Arizona. The lion population has grown to a dangerous level and at time devastates the cattle herds as well as people. They were the only cowboys carrying guns on the cattle drive. Can you imagine what a bring your kids to work‐day would be like there? The cowboy life is very attractive to the youth out west. It is exciting stoic and you are not sitting in an office. They certainly want to grow up to be like their father.
Robert is a Lakota Sioux born on the Pine Ridge reservation. He is an artist and does beautiful pen and ink drawings. When I photographed him he had something in his mouth, which I thought was gum. Actually it was a stone, and the Sioux use it to keep hydrated. He is a wonderful, gentle man with a classic Lakota face.
Dennis is the quintessential expert on Indian Trail-Marker trees. He has spent his entire adult life finding and documenting these special bent trees used as trail markers. He is also an artist and sculptor with his art dedicated to his passion.
Ashley is a beautiful Navajo girl with her hair in a classic Navajo Bun. She represents the essence of the new generation of the Southwestern Native Americans, of which many embrace Native traditions. This project is mostly for her so she and eventually her children will have a document of their culture with portraits and stories of her people to help remember.
What an amazing man! The Tuskegee Airmen were the “Red tails”, an experimental squadron of black fighter pilots assigned to protect the bombers during the second world war. Listen to what he has to say and watch the video. You will see what I mean.
This is so special to me since it was my first portrait with the first Big Camera prototype. She is, of course, stunning and when you blow this up to 24’, you can feel the weight of her hair and see the downy little feathers within her pores. Our pediatrician was over and when saw this he said,” I see 100 kids a week and never noticed the beautiful detail I see here”.
Greg is the man who built the circle of trees as a wedding house for his daughter. He is also my contact with the Cajun culture. He lives in the swamp and is out every day taking photographs. He is well educated and has always been in love with the bayou. He has done several beautiful books on “The Atchafalaya” and is their main advocate for the survival of the culture, which the government is trying to take away.
His Story is hard to believe, but here goes. First of all he worked with me as my assistant in Santa Fe when I was shooting cowboys and probably saved my life. There was a drunken cowboy trying to get into the casting of a film I was doing and I asked him to leave. As he got to the door my back was turned and then he went to attack me but Crazy Bear who is about 5’2” had him down in a heartbeat. His story is that he was captured by the Vietcong and imprisoned in a bamboo water cage, as in The Deer Hunter, for nearly a year until he managed to escape, but the damage was done. When he got back to L.A., he joined the Hells Angels and was involved in a killing. He ran away and found asylum in the Navajo Nation where they healed him, and now he is great man and an asset to the tribe.
I tried to photograph him with the same respect I would a person as he tried to use me as a floor matt. They are powerful animals and when you are looking through a lens you can easily forget. I was literally under him with a wide-angle lens to give perspective and feature his face, especially his eye.
The Gullah Geechee are freed slaves that were given Sea Islands off the Carolinas. They still speak their African language and Carry on their African Traditions. Their isolation helped preserve the culture. The leader of their nation is Queen Quet.
I spent some time with the Carson Barns circus photographing circus workers. They are a happy lot generally but 1 step from homelessness. I photographed him in the elephant trailer, which they graciously parked so that the side door faced the north light. You hear all kinds of stuff, but my experience was that the animals were like their family. I had planned to use the tent as a background but there were too many graphics so I soaked a bed sheet in mud.
J.C was six years old living in Japan when the bombs went off very close to him. He reluctantly came to this country for work when he was 30 and soon fell in love with America. He became a successful photographer and when he retired, he moved out west where he earned the name J. C. for Japanese Cowboy.
Star is an amazing artist specializing in headpieces. I thought it was essential to capture her in color even though there was no film available so I taped 100 sheets of film together to make the portrait and then stitched them together. The quality is the same just a lot of work. I will do this again is the subject demands it.
The small dairy farm is one of the more rapidly vanishing cultures. The price to the farmer for 1 gallon of milk has not changed since 1977. The people who built much of the big camera were X-dairy farmers who had to find other work even though they loved what they did more the I can express here. The African American farmer has also been desomated to about the same degree. About 70 years ago there were over a million and now about 15,000.
Sky represents a new generation of brilliant young artists with fresh eyes and new concepts. She won a full scholarship to the art institute fashion school without knowing how to sew a stitch.
Dewey lives in the Atchafalaya swamp in LA. He has survived as a fisherman and a hunter and raised a beautiful family. When he was 65, he was resting out in the woods after a long day of fishing when he spotted a deer. He slowly got up and ran after the deer… and caught it!, but during the struggle (his pen knife was his only weapon) the deer knocked him unconscious and ran away. He tells the story often and everyone loves it. If I told a story that my friends have heard once, they would roll their eyes. Everyone in this culture has one great story for which they are known.
He is a great looking, strong cowboy. I had a nice conversation with him but could only get this one look no matter what I said. I finally asked him if he could smile and his 12 year old son burst out laughing behind me. I asked what was funny for him and he looked at me and said,”My dad don’t smile”.
I photographed Angie shortly before she passed. She was wearing her prayer shall and holding a sacred stone. She was very sick but walked down to the lake to pray every morning at sunrise. The morning of the photograph she saw pictures in the waves of horses galloping into the sunrise.
The Nazis captured Sam in Poland after they killed his parents. He was five and spent 5 years in concentration camps hidden by the adults since they would have killed him because he was to small to work. He was finally rescued and was brought to the US where he was adopted and became very successful. He created the Illinois Holocaust Museum. His story is humbling.
Barbara Wolf Bear is Lakota Soiux. She is a powerful woman who identifies with the eagle. I saw the spark of the eagle in her eyes. Generally people are a little uncomfortable in front of the camera at least at first. It was the other way with her. Her gaze was haunting.
As I get more into this project I find more and more cultures. Barrios is Aztec. They create their own regalia and have amazing ceremonies. There are many cultures like this…small but powerful and passionate.
Yazzie and I served in Vietnam at the same time. Native people write songs about him now and honor him as a great warrior for his service. The irony of our stories is that I was adopted by an Indian tribe, The Lumbee when I returned a bit damaged and he had to live with the “white man”. My healing took about 6 months while his took 20 years.
He is very special with his passion for his cultures. The Sioux and the Comanche were the two most powerful tribes that ruled the west for a long time. Rudy has a “Ritual Sweat” every weekend and has participated in the amazing “Sun Dance” where your pectorals are punctured with stakes and attached to the sacred tree. You dance and blow an eagle whistle for days until the stakes rip through your flesh and you are released. You have to be invited and he has done this most sacred ceremony12 times. There is an old movie about this called “A Man Called Horse”.
This is a very old and rare dance mask used in Apache ceremonies, even today.