Saturday March 16th, 2013
Virginia Commonwealth University Children’s Hospital
Memphis Beale Street Caravan
Saturday March 16th, 2013
Virginia Commonwealth University Children’s Hospital
Memphis Beale Street Caravan
Thursday February 7th, 2013
by Maria Luci
Over the past decade, Washington, DC-based photographer Rebecca Drobis has been dedicating her summers to photographing the people of Montana’s Blackfeet Reservation. The series’ main focus is the children, the challenges they face day-to-day living on the Reservation—and the sense of unity that comes from these challenges. Through Rebecca’s portraits and daily life photographs, a unique story of poverty and richesse unfolds. Moved by these “Grown Up West” photographs, and her dedication to the project, I got in touch with Rebecca to learn more…
When did you first visit the Blackfeet Reservation?
I actually wound up on there on a meandering road trip when I was working at the Santa Fe Photo Workshops in New Mexico in 2003. The photo assistants had long periods between workshop seasons, so I hopped in the car with another assistant and headed north.
What inspired you to create this project?
I really just knew this was a place I wanted to photograph—I was quite determined to gain access, get permission and work from a very intimate perspective. I am very sensitive to the negative perceptions of white people and outsiders in general in this community. For obviously justified reasons—the historical mistreatment of Native Americans by whites—it is a long legacy of betrayal. I wanted to build relationships and trust, and gain access with permission, not by stealing or sneaking.
What did you aim to accomplish through your photographs?
I was hoping to capture intimate photos that conveyed the experience of growing up in such a powerful place—especially to show the connection with the natural world. Like vignettes of play, joy, and raw childhood experience in a place that is like no other.
Also, something that’s very important that I have come to understand, and have been trying to communicate is that reservations are diverse communities. There are other races living there—white, mixed tribes, black, Asian. There is a very specific visual stereotype of “the rez” that has been perpetuated in other visual portrayals (documentary essays and movies). The Blackfeet Reservation is filled with different types of people. I was surprised at first, but it is a wonderful community and for the most part there is great respect and interdependence.
Why focus on the children?
I have always photographed children—it is what I enjoy most in photography. Children are filled with a quirkiness and spontaneity that leads to unselfconscious thoughts and actions. Once the self-doubt sets in, it snuffs out much of that raw emotion. I also wanted to focus on the positive and not take advantage of the trust that this community had in me. Anglo-america has a disgraceful history of taking advantage and betraying trust, I absolutely wanted to break from that.
What is the reaction of those living at the Reservation to your project?
My priority was to create intimate portraits, so at first it was very hard for me to get access. But the key was that I was very persistent and patient—I just kept returning, time after time, year after year, and gradually I was just a recognized character in the community. In fact, when I am out shooting, people ask, “Who is that?” and then I hear, “You know, that white lady with the the camera…”
I also need to mention that I always get permission from a parent or guardian—my subjects are young and I am very respectful of that. I don’t just walk around doing street shooting. I have been working with a couple of parents and teachers who have introduced me to families, or connected me with subjects. It’s such a small place that while it was hard to penetrate, once the trust is established, it’s there to stay.
How do the kids feel about being photographed?
The kids either love being photographed, or are so into their play that they could care less. Just like all children, short attention spans, so after a minute or two of noticing me, they get bored and go back to whatever they were doing and forget about me.
One thing I will say though is that I once brought back a book I made of photographs from this project, and the kids all looked at the book, and that was really thrilling for them. All of them knew somebody in that book, and because it looked professionally printed, it made them feel excited and important.
What has the reaction been to the images so far?
I have gotten some great reactions to the body of work, and honestly the most important opinions are those of my subjects and their parents. I am very grateful for that trust and want to make sure to portray their lives accurately.
Do you have any plans for the photos? Do you plan on continue shooting at the Reservation?
Right now I am working on a book project as well as a gallery show with some large prints—pairing the direct portraits with the large landscapes to show the scale of the subjects in their land.
But my absolute priority is to add a collaborative element with the kids. I have shot a lot of video, b-roll of the kids, and interviews with parents. It has been really tough to interview and get a cohesive narrative out of the younger subjects. I am looking to partner or expand this aspect of the story telling beyond the medium of photography and video. So I am open to ideas! That is the future of this project—to engage the subjects and allow them to tell their own stories. I can’t wait to hear what they have to say!
Have you learned anything through the creation of this series?
I have learned that the longer you spend on something, the more you have to learn. It is the opposite of what I expected. This has been a very rich and rewarding process for me as a photographer and a human. I really feel so grateful to have chosen this great profession—without the camera, there is no way I would have been able to access and explore this topic in such depth.
Sunday April 29th, 2012
Friday December 23rd, 2011
Before, during and after war.
Google makes it snow.
Even Santa has an iPhone…
California urges the Kardashians to pay more taxes.
20 ridiculous things you never knew about Kim Jong Il.
Exploding tree ornaments!
Wrap it up in DIY photographic wrapping paper…
This will blow your mind, with no post production.
- Maria Luci
Thursday April 1st, 2010
Last week our producers Ben and Amanda pulled off a marathon day in Virginia and the District of Columbia, sharing portfolios with The Martin Agency, Smithsonian Magazine and Design Army. They also met up with our local photographers for a drink.
Let’s let Amanda and Ben tell us about their adventures, first-hand:
After a scenic southward drive from Philly (our HQ), our first stop was The Martin Agency, an ever-expanding advertising shop whose clients include GEICO, Wal-Mart, Tylenol, and Kellogg’s. We had a large variety of portfolios that morning, and greeted about 15 creatives who came through to admire the books and learn more about our site.
One art buyer was searching for something specific, and after looking through Roger Hagadone’s book, grabbed his promo and said “This is perfect for the meeting I have in five minutes!” We chatted about Roger’s quirky style and expert production before she rushed out for her meeting, promos in hand.
Another art producer got a kick out of John Mireles’ take on the suburban housewife, saying “Weird, I wear the same thing when I take my son out!”
They must have been in a zippy mood, because their colleague kept turning back to check out the pecs on a shirtless athlete drinking water in Matthew Hanlon’s book, at the 1:10 mark in this video:
After packing up, we hustled up to DC (made it there in two hours) for a stop at Smithsonian Magazine. Their photo department came by to look through the selection of photojournalism, travel, and portrait books that we brought. They explained that the mag assigns photography for nearly half of each issue, and rely on stock photos for the rest to cover stories about historical incidents, which often demand older or official images.
They also like to know when photographers are traveling to out-of-the-way locations, just in case the stars align and the magazine is covering a story about that part of the world (it’s happened!). Additionally, they enjoyed seeing some of the international books that we brought, like Singapore photographer Charles Pertwee’s:
Next, we headed across town (after an unplanned detour under the arch of Chinatown) to Design Army to share a bunch of portfolios with their creatives. Jake and Pum Lefebure started the design firm in 2003, and already they’ve developed a reputation for their high-end approach to annual reports, fashion, and even cookbooks. They have a sharp eye for talent, and often shoot with DC photographer Cade Martin (you can see the work they did with him for the Washington Ballet on our 2009 Holiday Mailer).
Design Army’s creatives are heavily involved in the art direction for the photography projects they take on, and so they weren’t afraid to give their true opinion on people’s portfolio design, branding, and picture edit (which is refreshing, actually, even in the few cases where they were lukewarm on somebody). They responded well to Tamar Levine’s and Ari Abramczyk’s portfolios, joking that perhaps they used the same pool for their beautiful and distinct underwater shots. Here’s Ari’s book:
For their corporate projects, they’re big on playing down the staged shots and like when a photographer can artistically capture real moments. Their creatives also appreciated our food photographers, including Jeff Padrick, Teri Campbell, and Michael Kohn (below). “It has to look good enough to eat, so the coloring must be true-to-life but better,” they explained, showing examples of the work they’ve done for publishing house Chronicle’s cookbooks.
By 5:30 PM we were ready to relax, so we met up with a dozen or so of our Baltimore and DC photographers at The Front Page, recently voted the Best Happy Hour in the city. Sean McCormick just finshed judging an art director’s awards that week, and Eli Meir Kaplan told us about his smooth transition there from Austin a few months ago. New-to-WM Rebecca Drobis came by, and at one point explained to Jason Hornick about how she’s the real deal as far as a genuine DC-native: “It’s actually rare!”
After three successful meetings and a fun get-together, we called it a [long] day and headed back to a strangely summer-like Philadelphia.
-Amanda Hanley, Neil Binkley, and Ben Weldon