Many professional Native photographers are deeply aware of colonialism’s social toll. With recognition of these histories, they have embraced photography as a medium of empowerment. Developing Stories: Native Photographers in the Field is a series of photo essays created by Native photojournalists Russel Albert Daniels, Tailyr Irvine, and Donovan Quintero in collaboration with the Smithsonian’s National Museum of the American Indian, now on view in New York City.

Daniels’s essay explores the historical complexities shaping a 266-year-old Indigenous/Hispanic community’s sense of self and genesis in violence, slavery, and survival. Irvine’s essay delves into the legacy of US government regulations impacting Native Americans’ most personal decisions, including with whom they have children. Quintero’s essay reveals how the COVID-19 pandemic has impacted the Navajo Nation, capturing how individuals, families, healthcare workers, and officials have responded to the pandemic.

Through the modern Indigenous stories portrayed in their work, these photographers are breaking down stereotypes of Native peoples still prevalent in the mainstream media. These photo essays show the diversity and complexity of the modern-day lives of Indigenous peoples, including the issues they face living in the United States.

Cécile Ganteaume, exhibition curator

Photo Essays

Available both online and in person, Developing Stories was curated by Cécile R. Ganteaume. Collaborators Tristan Ahtone (Kiowa), Editor at Large at Grist, and John Smock, director of photojournalism at the CUNY School of Journalism, provided editorial and technical expertise to the museum and photographers throughout the development of each photo essay, including the selection of photographers.

Developing Stories: Native Photographers in the Field is on view at the National Museum of the American Indian in New York through March 12, 2023.

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