Captured Our Way
Amplifying Indigenous Narratives in Education & Beyond
Photographing Indigenous Peoples and Communities is a tremendous honor and sacred responsibility I take seriously because historically, Indigenous Peoples have been exploited through photography and other forms of media, especially in the field of education. As an Indigenous photographer in education and beyond, I capture images that honorably amplify Our Stories, Our Way!
Indigenous Storytelling and
Intellectual Property Statement
Indigenous Imprint: 1884 Carlisle Indian Industrial School student body photo. Courtesy of the Cumberland County Historical Society, Carlisle, PA.
Since the beginning of time, Indigenous People and Communities have told stories. We will continue to tell stories until the end of time. As the methods to convey stories evolves, photographs and videos specifically can convey compelling stories, especially about Indigenous People and Communities. My storytelling approach stems from sophisticated Indigenous methodologies, epistemologies, and intellectual Ways of Knowing and Being. I have a cultural map (Cajete, 2000) that guides me on approaches to amplifying Indigenous narratives, especially in the field of education.
In the late 18th century, Captain Richard Henry Pratt established the Carlisle Indian Industrial Boarding School in Carlisle, PA. The school's motto was to "Kill the Indian and save the man." At the school, a local photographer captured many pictures of Indigenous children, including the famous before-and-after photos of Tom Torlino (Diné) and the famous 1884 student body photo of militarized-looking Indigenous youth standing in front of Pratt's home (photo below).
These photos mark a time when Indigenous youth were often forced to assimilate into mainstream American culture and eradicate their Indigenous heritage. At the boarding school, Indigenous students were rarely the photographers, but rather the ones being photographed. In other words, Indigenous students' stories were often silenced and told for them because folks, like Pratt, could control and manipulate the narratives about the boarding school and mask the cultural genocide occurring on its campus.
Recognizing the detrimental effects of mishandled Indigenous narratives, my mission is to amplify the narratives of Indigenous People through writing, photography, social media, videography, mentorship, and advocacy. I take the responsibility seriously in handling and proclaiming Indigenous stories in an honorable manner. As a storyteller and content creator, I understand I have a tremendous responsibility to the Indigenous individual(s) and Tribal Communities I engage with to protect the stories I am entrusted with. I am honored for the ability to share Our Stories – Our Way!
My Photography Story
I can see, but I cannot see. My vision is a phenomenon that I cannot explain, other than I see the world with a unique pair of eyes. When I was a teenager, I was diagnosed with an eye disease called Stargardt's, which is a form of macular degeneration. I have no central vision, and I can only see 20/80 in both eyes with corrected lenses. For example, when I look through my Canon 5D Mark IV camera's viewfinder, I cannot see the menu settings because the print is too small.
Although I have a visual impairment, I use my peripheral vision to see objects and patterns, which gives me a creative edge as a photographer. I enjoy photographing anything about university life, the land, and anything symmetrical!
My interest in photography began in 2009, when I bought my first iPhone. Initially, I used my iPhone 4S as an assistive technology tool. If I could not see an object, I would take a photo of the subject and zoom in. This method was beneficial in seeing signs and fine print text. I still use this method today.
Eventually in the early 2010s, I began to experiment with photography and videography apps like Instagram and iMovie. I would often receive positive feedback on my photos and videos, which ultimately motivated me to learn how to shoot with Canon DSLR cameras.
Since I did not own a DSLR, I rented camera equipment from the University of Arizona's information technology services. I taught myself how to use DSLRs by watching YouTube videos and photography sessions with my mentors. Photography became one of my favorite hobbies, which also benefits me professionally.
I photograph with a Canon Mark IV. My favorite lenses are Canon EF 70-200mm f/2.8L IS USM III and Canon EF 24-70mm f/2.8L USM II. I also enjoy shooting with my iPhone and using the mobile Lightroom app to edit my photos.
Photography is storytelling, and I am honored to amplify the narratives of Indigenous People and beyond.